Federation-Apocalypse Log 44: The Linear Realms

   Fortunately enough, getting everyone back together proved straightforward.

“Hey Marty! How’d it go?”

“Oh, pretty good. Limey turned the entire staff of the INS office into animals though. And I helped humble a coworker.”

“Hm. Maybe some of those scrolls we gave him had more than one spell on them.”

“Yeah, I was going to ask you about that lightning bolt . . .”

“I forgot until I looked it up, but scrolls can have up to seven spells on them, and we were only checking the first titles.”

“That’ll teach us! At least the little guy can protect himself from the union.”

“Sounds like it. Of course, it might just be really easy to transform people in Battling Business World: realms like that are often heavily populated with talking animals and things.”

“It was funny as hell! And let me tell you, that’s one bureaucrat who’s going to be sober for a while!”

“I found a clue actually: those bloody memes might be related to the Linear Realms – and those might be worth checking into anyway. There are apparently a lot more real people there than I would have expected from some random realm – and I couldn’t find much on the history either.”

“Huh. At least one of us got some work done.”

“Hey, always best to mix a little work with your pleasure!”

   Meanwhile, the Mirage had been doing training exercises with the Orcs. It had found itself to be much more capable since partaking of the fountain’s waters – and it would very much like to learn what the cadets were able to show it about magic. That was easy enough to arrange: it would give them all something to do while Jarvain was in therapy – and when everyone else was doing things in places where the Mirage would have a hard time fitting in.

   Marty spent some time checking on business affairs; the visit home had that sort of thing at the forefront of his mind. Baelaria had the trade routes up and running, and profits were pouring in – along with occasional recruits for Kevin. The core offices had been getting quite a lot of business, especially for gatekeeping services, with bodyguard, search and rescue, and spellcasting (divination, transmutation, communication, healing, and the occasional enchantment) running a close second. Meme issues had largely been the occasional computer alert and censorship of media streams for periods of time.

   There had been several inquiries as to why a bunch of adolescents were running such a business – and as to where they’d come from and who they worked for. They hadn’t been shy about saying they worked for Amarant Solutions of course – which had led to a dozen different people wanting to talk to whoever was in charge, although they mostly left rather than leaving messages except a number (always the same one) to call when informed that that person was out of touch at the moment.

   Marty considered setting up an expert system to impersonate him – but decided that simply giving one of the employees a middle-management or secretarial title (and maybe having them shapeshift to look older) would be easier – while Kevin wondered why the offices weren’t attracting more attention than that.

   They went to Kadia, made sure there was a meme filter running on the line (just in case) and Marty called while Kevin did his recruiting spiel. He promptly got put through to a young man at a desk who wanted to ask a few questions – and identified himself as Rael Thomas, a salesman for Holston Communications (a quick private search showed that as a minor firm, apparently originating from, and possibly based in, the Manifold. It had handled some minor advertising campaigns on earth and a few of the major colony worlds at modest expense and with mediocre results. The number did match, albeit as a private line. Still a startup, too small to have generated a lot of records, and probably looking for new clients. Could be a cover, could be a sideline like theirs, or it could be just a new niche player). An advertising company. Well, Marty understood that; they got the general spiel on available services. Now that they were established, advertising wouldn’t hurt a bit.

   Rael did do some probing about the adolescents manning things, and as to how fascinating it was “to find so many talented young men and women willing to do such desperately needed work”. He was afraid that they might have to take some liberties in portraying employees in advertising though: people were more inclined to trust difficult tasks to adults. Perhaps he could handle advertising for some older personnel as well?

   Well, for Manifold operations, they needed sharp, physically fit, and well-educated people who didn’t mind travel and had good nerves. Office staff could be almost any qualified applicant.

   Rael would call back – or contact one of the offices – with a few proposals shortly.

   Meanwhile, Kevin had been making his usual pitch to his 79 selected applicants, 70 youngsters who had been slaves from birth, and another 107 who had been purchased in various places around the manifold.

   Unsurprisingly, the Thrall-selected applicants and slaves-from-birth (throughly used to the idea of belonging to someone) almost all (141 out of 149) signed up, as usual. Only 29 of the others signed up, but there were only 23 who need a bit of memory-blurring and being sent home (and only 11 from Core). The rest had noplace to go, so they got put on staff in Kadia.

   It was pointless trying to keep exact track of the Neodogs. Admittedly, only about 20% of them were young enough to be eligible, and only about 35% of those actually accepted enthrallment – but an net 7% of 186,417 purchases was quite a few. There were even a few from among the eight thousand or so free NeoDogs who’d signed up for jobs.

   It was an embarrassment of riches… He’d had been so SURE that deep-level rebelliousness and/or incompatibility with a human soul-bond would keep the numbers down! He would have been surprised at a tenth that number! Pleased with a HUNDRETH!

   He didn’t dare actually put them to use on anything outside of Kadia simply for fear of what kind of reaction he might provoke. Even there, he had to make sure that he reoriented their basic “obey humans” genetic obedience-programming to HIM as opposed to any human – even if it wasn’t as powerful as the Thrallbond or genuine neural programming, it was still a powerful instinct, and one he didn’t need when they were going to be supervising humans who were recovering from the violence memes.

   Any who didn’t accept got memory removal and an innocuous orientation lecture substituted, just in case – and the new Thralls simply got regular Kadia jobs for the moment. It was a waste, but Kevin just wasn’t powerful enough to open that can of worms yet. The military and the House of Roses were nervous enough just on the strength of Kevin’s ability to power-share with normal kids.

   It was bloody lucky that he’d shielded and warded Kadia, both in it’s definition and with the best spells he could work locally – and that was pretty good. There were advantages to building your own realm.

   Come to think of it, it would make a good spot for the House to drop by to talk about their “special projects” (recruiting efforts and others). He let them know that – and found that the House wanted a chance to discuss planet-moving with the military a bit more before he came by Core again. The Thralls could refer recruit-prospects to Kadia as well, and they could probably be back in a few days.

   And the military was wasting their own time, and that of the Thralls he’d assigned them, with stupid, repetitious, interrogations about Kevin. He gave the Thralls permission to go ahead and get cranky and put up passive resistance (like shapechanging into koalas) when they got too fed up with it. It wasn’t like they actually HAD any information except about the pact – and they weren’t even asking much about the details of that.

   Speaking of Memes, that seemed like a good spot to start: an expedition to the Linear Realms was certainly in order. It looked like you could get there most readily from Anarch – and Crusader offered easy access to Anarch.

   Crusader had the usual battles running, but they didn’t bother to get involved in those. The gate was in the back of a “Radio Shack” (some old chain apparently), so they picked up a signal jammer, white noise generator, and a box of smoke grenades on the way through.

   In Anarch they came out in a back alley by a free medical clinic, on a cold winter day. It didn’t look like a new plague though; just lots of poor people in desperate need of treatment. Keven left a couple of the new Thralls to keep an eye on the gate, to help out at the clinic, to heal if they wanted to, and to give the place a donation – unless it turned out to be a front, in which case they could do whatever they wanted to.

   The gate to the Linear Realms was – of course – in an apartment complex near one of the larger Arcologies. The elevator wasn’t working of course, and it was twelve and a half floors up. No wonder it didn’t see all that much use.

   In the Linear Realms they’d almost certainly wind up with local criminal roles – Kevin as a child-slaver and criminal dealer, Marty probably as some sort of blackmailer, extortionist, fixer, or crooked businessman, and Jamie would probably be a generic thug of some sort.

   Kevin warned them all to remember that law enforcement there tended to be humane, but had LOTS of reinforcements available if they needed them; it would be best to try not to make too big a fuss unless they had to. They concealed their weapons, looked a bit shabby, and made sure that they wouldn’t stand out too much.

   The gate came out in a large hallway: doorway BH1387 in a lengthy serious of somewhat shabby doorways. They made a careful note of that – but there was nobody around.

   In this world? What was going on? They needed a public information screen and a history check on those killer memes.

   Wait: there was somebody. An older guy with a floorsweeper by the plaza. A public datascreen too. OK: Complex BH, Floor 13, current news was the latest sports and media trivia, more corruption scandals in the government, civil disorder in block ZG, communications out at some substation and so data traffic is being rerouted expect delays, discussions about who really is in control of the linear developments and discussions on the latest medical breakthroughs in treating various behavioral and nervous disorders.

   At least none of them were currently on the “Most Wanted” list and his local agents didn’t have any major warnings to offer. Still nobody in sensing range except the cleaning guy though. What the hell?

   The floor sweeper yielded a bit of information: everyone was at a Revival down in the Auditorium. He would have gone as well, but his boss had refused to give him any time off. It was the preacher Walkins speaking. His message was for the salvation of their very souls, souls that had been rotting in this cardboard world they had been born in.

   It had to be one heck of an event though to get all the illegal kids, all the crooks, and EVERYONE out though. It sounded like they needed to see it.

“Should be fun if the piety doesn’t make us throw up.”

“I suspect a total lack of real piety here.”

“Hey, the imitation of piety is far worse than the real thing”

“After all – “Cardboard World” – a preacher called “Walk-In”… Lets head on over.”

   They slipped the janitor some cash and headed on over.

   The auditorium was vast, and full of people. Every fire code on the books about maximum occupancy was being violated. There were numerous large screens showing what was happening onstage, and dozens of people huddled around portable little viewscreen units. Getting a look at the stage itself might be tricky though; the crowd was easily in the hundreds of thousands.

   Somebody was playing major games. Why would a space like this even exist? It would make crowd control and maintaining order quite impossible. Hundreds of thousands? In a society where everyone was crowded into little apartments for maximum use of space and early virtual events were possible?

   It looked like walls had been ripped out and structural supports redone to support the ceiling.

   The spiel was being broadcast in high definition from somewhere nearby. It consisted mainly of lamenting the suffering the people in the linears had to endure and inflict on each other merely in pursuit of the right to have the children they wanted. Of how precious children were, and how by working together and pooling resources, they might be able to take control of their lives and their destinies. How this very auditorium was an example of such power, where once there were walls closing people out from each other and forcing interactions through little viewscreens instead of in person, now there was a great space and a community to fill it. It went on and on…

   The response was entirely out of proportion to the logical content. Kevin started recording for material and running an analysis looking for repetitive images, sounds, and sequences – and especially subliminals. The man was a good speaker, and could have drawn a following – but this close to 100%? You couldn’t get that high a percentage of the population to agree that the earth was round without cheating somehow.

   There was indeed a hidden layer in the transmission, although it was very subtle. Was this sort of thing routine for this world? Kevin hadn’t been looking for anything like it the last time around – and where was law enforcement? Unwilling to risk a mass riot? Ah. On the perimeter, trying to hide their numbers – although it was easy to see the nervousness in their stance.

   Much as it pained them to admit it, for once they might be on the side of law enforcement.

   The subtle layer itself appeared to be a mixture of small changes in color, brightness, and several other visual factors, the sound seemed to have been modified slightly in tone and inflection, with possible frequency shifts and changes in volume. All subtle, but certainly not normal. It looked to be designed to work on the lower levels of consciousness.

   Kevin slipped up on some midranking enforcement type and showed him the data – and inquired as to whether the subliminals in this spiel were allowable. That ought to get a reaction, since they’d need a supercomputer to find the stuff in a week with their technology. Besides, it didn’t look like they could handle a crowd this large.

   The cop took a look and started sweating.

“Kid, is this for real? Please tell me you are not jacking with me here. I am not in the mood for these kinds of sick jokes.”

“Quite real.”

“Good God”

“How did you think it got this kind of audience penetration? It’s got to be what, 99.99%?” This relies on subtlety. I’d suggest dropping some harmonics into the power supply in the audio and video-feed frequencies and varying them randomly. Everywhere if possible.”

“I was sincerely hoping that this was one of those cult things that occasionally occur and subsequently implode. You know how religions can be. This is unlike anything we have ever seen before… Not a bad idea on the harmonics, I’ll radio the commissioner and have him contact the power company. In the meantime, this may get ugly fast. If you have any sense, you will get out of here and keep your head down.”

   Well, judging from the records this usually wound up with “go home and pray” – which was good, since Kevin didn’t think he could talk this many down, Marty though that violence and intimidation would only start a stampede, and even Jamie didn’t have enough tranquilizer gas to accomplish much against a half a million people. Given the locally-enhanced range for psychic effects Kevin could broadcast “calm” over quite a radius – but that would certainly draw official attention and he could only generate a mood, not control thousands of minds.

   Kevin recommended that they – and the cops – hold back and let them disperse quietly if that was at all possible. They probably had a few more minutes before the data he’d provided got up high enough to make the authorities want to talk to them VERY badly – as in “How did you conduct that analysis?” and “Who are you anyway?”.

   They gave the cop a copy of the data and departed quietly while he was busy explaining what he wanted done over the radio.

   Besides, while the gatherings themselves were never violent, there was a marked increase in dead bodies that appeared in the related districts afterwards – usually identifiable as wanted criminals. That made sense: they were preaching unity, not putting up with exploitation. Of course, it also meant that they might be in trouble if they were recognized somehow.

   Still, they were in the right place for some research. The meme and sensory-based mind manipulation techniques are well established in this reality.

Deadlands-Exalted Bestiary

   When the Dualistic Exalted were out wandering around the universe, one of the places they visited was the world of Deadlands – in particular, the futuristic version or Wasted West (rather than the classical Weird West). Naturally enough, that called for converting some monsters.

   If you want detailed descriptions, backgrounds, pictures, and so on, you’ll want to take a look at the original Deadlands books (the Deadlands system is pretty good, and well worth a look if you can find it anyway). It should be noted that generic Deadlands creatures are designed to be something that a group of normal people can handle with difficulty, while some of the major ones can only be permanently destroyed by figuring out their special weaknesses. A group of major Exalts won’t have a lot of trouble with most of the generic ones, although Dualistic Exalts can be challenged a lot more readily.

   Quite a lot of the Deadlands monsters are – of course – undead. In general, all Undead have the following special powers:

  • Undead need not breathe, cannot be poisoned, know no fear, and do not bleed. They have a base Bashing Soak of (Sta +2) and Lethal Soak of half that, some extra health levels and heal as Exalted given appropriate resources. They take special measures (often destroying their brains or hearts or killing them in particular ways) to finish off – although they can be incapacitated normally.
  • When a greater (named) undead is destroyed, it leaves a residue of it’s power behind. A character who absorbs that residue will gain some power related to the original entity – a process called “counting coup”. Any other undead, mortals who’ve spent a year or more in a shadowland, anyone with an active essence pool, and anyone with innate mystical powers is eligible.
  • Many other mystical abominations leave a similar power-residue.

Automaton (Crazy Robot, Terminator, etc)

Physical

Str

6

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

8

Social

Chr

2

 

Man

1

 

App

1

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 6, regains 1 whenever it kills someone.
  • Abilities: Athletics 1, Awareness 2, Brawl 2, Dodge 1, Firearms 4, Stealth 1, Survival 1
  • Specialities: Intimidation 3
  • Health Levels: 4x -0,4x -1, and 4x -2
  • Special Powers; Armor 6 (Total 14B/10L), built-in Chain Gun (10L, may use autofire modifiers) and Grenade Launcher (standard grenades) which may both be fired once a round without penalty. Unlike most Undead, Automatons have no special protection against bashing damage. Being undead, they are immune to pain (they have health levels), fear, and appeals to compassion.
  • Automatons are clunky ghost-rock powered robots piloted by undead brains. They are vicious, cunning, and like to kill. Unlike most Undead, they do rely on a working body of sorts and so have no special protection against bashing damage and can only heal at the mortal rate – and even then only with spare parts.

Black Hat (Generic human bad guy)

Physical

Str

3

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

3

Social

Chr

2

 

Man

2

 

App

2

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 5, regain 1 whenever they get away…
  • Abilities: Athletics 1, Awareness 1, Brawl 2, Dodge 1, Drive 1, Firearms 2, Larceny 1, Medicine 1, Stealth 1, Survival 2, Thrown 1.
  • Specialities: Demolition 1, Gambling 2
  • Health Levels: -0, -1, -1, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated.
  • Equipment; Scavenged Kevlar (4l/2B, net 4L/5B), Assault Rifle (8L, may autofire), Combat Knife (+1L, no other mods), Fragmentation Grenades (6L). The rifle and grenades are booby-trapped.
  • Black Hats are simply brutal human thugs, and are only really dangerous to heroes due to the fact that they come in swarms and are reasonably well armed. Elite Black Hats are usually a little more skilled, but rarely very much so.

Blast Shadow (Intangible life-leech)

Physical

Str

 

Dex

 

Sta

Social

Chr

4

 

Man

3

 

App

Mental

Per

3

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 8, regain 1 per day embodied
  • Abilities: None of it’s own. They may use whatever physically-based skills a host possessed while alive.
  • Specialities: As above
  • Special Powers; Blast Shadows look like nothing more than darker patches among other shadows. When a human’s shadow touches a shadow that hosts it, the Blast Shadow moves into the humans shadow – from where it drains the victims life away at one level of bashing damage per hour. Once the victim dies, the Blast Shadow occupies his or her body until it too fades away in 1d6 days. Killing the body simply forces the Shadow back into intangibility – but getting rid the shadows it hides in will permanently destroy a Blast Shadow. Noticing that your shadow is misbehaving requires a D3 Awareness check.

Bloodwolf (Abomination)

Physical

Str

8

 

Dex

6

 

Sta

6

Social

Chr

6

 

Man

8

 

App

2

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

2

 

Wit

7

  • Willpower 8, regain 1 per victim drained.
  • Abilities: Athletics 2, Awareness 1, Brawl 2, Dodge 1, Perform 3, Stealth 3, Survival 3.
  • Specialities: Intimidation 2
  • Health Levels: 3x -0, 4x -1, 2x -4, Paralyzed. Can only be slain by impaling their heart with a silver weapon, burning the carcass, and scattering the ashes. 8B and 4L Soak.
  • Special Powers; Undead, Claws/Bite at (Str+2)L or 6B if they’ve grabbed someone and are draining blood. This restores their willpower and allows healing, but they can’t attack anyone else while feeding. While they can be immobilized with a silver stake through the heart, it’s usually easier just to blow them apart. Luckily, they aren’t infectious.
  • Bloodwolves are Vampire-Werewolf Abominations, and are among the most physically dangerous and durable of the lesser (unnamed) undead.

Croaker (Deep One, Reptile-Man, Etc)

Physical

Str

2

 

Dex

2

 

Sta

3

Social

Chr

2

 

Man

2

 

App

1

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 6, regain one per 12 hours in water
  • Abilities: Archery 2, Athletics 2, Awareness 2, Brawl 2, Dodge 2, Faith 2 (The base for their spells), Stealth 2, Survival 2, and Throwing 2
  • Specialities: Swimming 3
  • Health Levels: 2x -0, 2x -1, 2x -2, -4, Incapacitated. 5B and1L Soak without external armor or spells. Special Powers; Tough Skin (1L/2B Soak), +2L claws and fangs, Most have one or two spells/”miracles” (Commonly a protective armor spell and either a shield versus ranged attacks [Subtracts dice from attacks and covers a group] or a standard thaumaturgic attack).
  • Croakers are generic lovecraftian fish-people who like to sacrifice humans to their dark gods. Shamans will have more spells, +2 will, and Faith 4. They usually carry crossbows and come in small swarms. A heroic human is usually a match for several of them, which is WHY they come in swarms – or small armies.

Dog of War

Physical

Str

4

 

Dex

5

 

Sta

4

Social

Chr

2

 

Man

2

 

App

2

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 6, regain one per day
  • Abilities: Brawl 3, Dodge 2, Stealth 1, Survival 3
  • Specialities: Intimidate 2
  • Health Levels: 2x -0, 2x -1, 2x -2, -4, Incapacitated.
  • Special Powers; Undead (6B/3L Soak), Bite (6L), and Raise Pack (Up to 24 Lesser Dogs of War given 1d6 days).
  • Lesser Dogs of War are simply undead dogs and wolves. Use standard canines, give them an extra -0 and -1 Health Level and the usual undead Soak.
  • The Dogs of War were created by War to harass people and are about the weakest of all named undead. Upon encountering a new group – or an old one with a new member – the Alpha simply sends a pack charging in. If they’re destroyed, well, that’s a group to avoid in the future. If anyone manages to chase down and kill a pack Alpha, they gain a point of Valor (since this greatly encourages fighting, that may be the point). Characters who lack virtues gain an undead canine companion instead. No matter how often it’s blown up or driven off, a new one will always turn up in 1D6 days.

Doomsayers

Physical

Str

2

 

Dex

2

 

Sta

3

Social

Chr

3

 

Man

3

 

App

1

Mental

Per

3

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 6, Essence 2, Essence Pool 12
  • Abilities: Academics 1, Athletics 1, Awareness 1, Brawl 1, Drive 1, Faith 2, Firearms 1, Leadership 1, Medicine 1, Performance 1, Presence 1, Stealth 1, Survival 2, and Thrown 2.
  • Specialities: Oratory 1
  • Health Levels: -0, -1, -1, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated. 3B base Soak, but many scrounge up some armor.
  • Special Powers; Active essence pool, 4-8 radiation-based spells (usually including energy bolt, explosion, and induce harmful mutation), Radiation Tolerance and a random benign mutation.
  • These radiation priests support the mutant crusade against normal humanity. Luckily, they’re more fanatical than competent – and weren’t in the best of shape even before being irradiated.
  • Doombringers
    • Doombringers are simply Undead Doomsayers, and are almost identical – except as shown below:
    • Willpower 6, Essence 4, Essence Pool 18
    • Health Levels: -0, -0, -0, -1, -1, -1, -1, -2, -2, and Incapacitated. 2L and 5B Soak. They return in 1d6 days unless slain by radiation magic. If actually slain, the killer may gain armor-2 versus radiation damage.
    • Special Powers; Undead, Active essence pool, 6-8 radiation-based spells (usually including energy bolt, explosion, blinding flash, and induce harmful mutation), Radiation Tolerance and two benign mutations.
    • Fortunately – especially since only thirty or forty people on earth are actually capable of killing them – Doombringers are relatively rare and are invariably quite mad. Of course, when one is temporarily “killed” it’s first order of business when it comes back is to hunt down it’s “killer”.

Hangin’ Judge

Physical

Str

5

 

Dex

4

 

Sta

3

Social

Chr

5

 

Man

3

 

App

2

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

2

 

Wit

5

  • Willpower 7, regain 1 per victim
  • Abilities: Awareness 3, Firearms 3, Melee 3, Riding 2, Stealth 2, Survival 3
  • Specialities: Pistols 2
  • Health Levels: 6x -0, 6x -1, 6x -2, Incapacitated. 5B and 1L Soak but can only be harmed by someone who’s either innocent and uncorrupted or is honestly dedicated to enforcing some sort of “law and order” justly. Each has a unique weakness related to their methods of executing “criminals”, and can only be truly destroyed by exploiting it. A judge which somehow gets rid of its weakness gets a new one, which it won’t know about, on the spot.
  • Special Powers; Undead, Each uses a weapon or pair of weapons which never runs out of ammunition and can inflict 8L damage in HTH. Some can summon nightmarish steeds as well.
  • Hangin’ Judges are created from those villains who viciously exploit positions of public trust and authority for their own gain and sadistic pleasure. Regardless of how they accomplished this in life, they have become literal destroyers of lives in undeath, solitary, merciless, and relentless hunters of whoever they decide is their prey this night. Any eligible character who truly destroys one can claim their weapons as a coup.

Los Diablos

Physical

Str

9

 

Dex

1

 

Sta

5

Social

Chr

5

 

Man

3

 

App

2

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

2

 

Wit

4

  • Willpower 6, regain 1 per day
  • Abilities: Awareness 1, Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Presence 1, Stealth 1,
  • Specialities: Intimidation 3
  • Health Levels: 2x -0, 4x -1, 3x -2, Incapacitated, Dead. 11B and 6L Soak. A Los Diablo can only harm, or be harmed by, characters with either Valor 5 and Will 8+ OR virtueless characters with Will 10.
  • Special Powers; Armor 6L/6B, Horns and Hooves inflict 12L damage on eligible targets, Fearless, Induce Fear (the Los Diablos take four nights to locate their target(s). Each night the target(s) lose a point of temporary willpower), and Poltergeist Swarm (they’re accompanied by a swarm of minor ghosts who run off or knock out anyone who might assist the valid targets.
  • Whether known as Gorgons, Minotaurs, Judges of Hell, or Oni, the Los Diablos are always hero-killers. They may only appear when at least one character in the group can harm or be harmed by them and when the group has foiled a major evil plot. Hiding is useless, but if you kill one you get +1 Valor and +3L/3B Soak.

Lurker

Physical

Str

8

 

Dex

1

 

Sta

4

Social

Chr

3

 

Man

2

 

App

0

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 4, regain 1 per victim
  • Abilities: Athletics 1, Awareness 2, Brawl 2,
  • Specialities: None.
  • Health Levels: 6x -0, 6x -1, 6x -2, Incapacitated. 16B and 12L Soak
  • Special Powers; Armor 12L/12B, Limbs inflict 12L damage and may attack four times per turn without penalty, near undetectable when lurking in ambush in an appropriate environment (6 automatic successes on stealth), +6 to movement speed, being totally fearless, and Screeching Limbs (they make so much noise when moving that it’s D5 to hear anything else in the vicinity).
  • Lurkers are animated heaps of blasted and twisted steel. Being too noisy when moving to hunt effectively, they usually simply set up housekeeping in the vicinity of something valuable and wait for prey to come to them.

Mojave Rattler (Cthonians, Grabboids, Etc)

Physical

Str

5

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

15

Social

Chr

3

 

Man

2

 

App

1

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

4

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 4, regain one per day
  • Abilities: Brawl 2, Stealth 1 (When underground),
  • Specialities: Intimidation 1
  • Health Levels: 6x -0, 6x -1, 6x -2, Incapacitated. 19B and 4L Soak. Normally retreats if it takes more than 6 wounds.
  • Special Powers; Armor 4L/4B, Bite for 6L once a target is dragged into its mouth (this takes 10 net successes on opposed strength checks), vibration sense, burrow at a fast running pace.
  • These tentacled worms normally pop up and try to pull a target into their maws with their tentacles. If the target and his or her friends do enough damage to make the tentacles useless it lets go and burrows away. While their main bodies have Str 15, they can only really apply that to large, stationary, objects.

Night Terror (Gargoyle, NightGuant, Etc)

Physical

Str

2

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

2

Social

Chr

3

 

Man

2

 

App

1

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

4

 

Wit

4

  • Willpower 6, regain 1 per victim dropped from a height.
  • Abilities: Awareness 2, Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Stealth 2
  • Specialities: Flight 2, Intimidation 2
  • Health Levels: 2 each -0, -1, -2 & -4, Incapacitated. 4B and 2L Soak.
  • Special Powers; Armor 2L and 2B, +2L Claws, Flight, Stunning Cry (affects a 10-yard radius, D3 Sta+Res check to resist, may be made again each round to recover. This is normally used as a part of an ambush. Fortunately, they are NOT immune to the cries of other Night Terrors, or they could kill any group).
  • Night Terrors are basically gargoyles, and prefer to attack planes, people on top of skyscrapers, and small groups they can stun before picking up and dropping them.

Rad Rats

   Rad Rats don’t really need statistics. They swarm over a victim, inflict a few scratches, and fall back to see if the victim goes down from supernatural radiation sickness. If a victim fails a D2 (Sta+Res) check, they will start losing one health level every (Sta) rounds and only supernatural healing will help. Area-effect attacks may throw back the rush; each individual rat is pretty fragile.

Shrak

Physical

Str

6

 

Dex

1

 

Sta

4

Social

Chr

4

 

Man

2

 

App

0

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

1

 

Wit

4

  • Willpower 4. Regains 1/Day
  • Abilities: Athletics 2, Dodge 2, Brawl 2, Sneak 2
  • Specialities: Swim 3, Intimidate 3, Track 3
  • Health Levels: 2 each -0, -1, -2 & -4, Incapacitated. 8B and 4L Soak.
  • Special Powers; 4B/4L Armor (tough skin), bite does 9L damage. Can climb hard, smooth, surfaces.
  • OK, it’s humanoid landshark time. They’re big, they bite people, and they usually work for Croakers. We’re done here.

Toxic Zombies

   See Walking Dead

Trog (Mutant, Degenerate, Cave-Man)

Physical

Str

4

 

Dex

2

 

Sta

5

Social

Chr

3

 

Man

2

 

App

1

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

1

 

Wit

2

  • Willpower 4, regains 1/day
  • Abilities: Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Dodge 2, Survival 3, and Throw 2
  • Specialities: Intimidation 3
  • Health Levels: -0, 3x -1, 3x -2, -4, Incapacitated.
  • Special Powers; Immunity to radiation and +3 successes versus Radiation Magic. Usually carry clubs and rocks.
  • Trogs are those poor people who are about as mutated as they can get – and didn’t get any good ones. They’re generally seen as expendable and can’t even reproduce.

Walkin’ Dead (Zombie, Skeleton, Etc)

Physical

Str

4

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

3

Social

Chr

2

 

Man

1

 

App

1

Mental

Per

4

 

Int

2

 

Wit

4

  • Willpower 4, regain one per brain eaten
  • Abilities: Awareness 1, Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Dodge 1, Firearms 2, Stealth 1, Thrown 2. May have other skills if the body is relatively fresh.
  • Specialities: Intimidate 2
  • Health Levels: 2 each -0, -1, and -2, Incapacitated. 4B and 2L Soak plus any armor they’ve obtained.
  • Special Powers; Undead. Skeletal ones are 50% immune to piercing weapons. All of them can bite and claw for lethal damage. Those which died of acid, electricity, toxins, diseases, etc, may use that hazard as a ranged attack (typically 5L damage or D1 to avoid infection) and add +2L or infection in HTH. Others use weapons if they can get them.
  • Walkin’ Dead include a wide variety of animated corpses. In general, they’re fairly easy to wipe out on an individual basis. The problem is that they come in large numbers.

Wendigo

Physical

Str

8

 

Dex

2

 

Sta

5

Social

Chr

5

 

Man

3

 

App

2

Mental

Per

5

 

Int

3

 

Wit

3

  • Willpower 5, regain one per victim eaten
  • Abilities: Awareness 2, Athletics 2, Brawl 3, Stealth 1, Survival 3,
  • Specialities: Local Area Knowledge 3, Intimidate 3
  • Health Levels: 3 each -0, -1, and -2, Incapacitated. 10B/5L Soak
  • Special Powers; Armor (5B/3L), Claw/Bite for 10L, Night Vision, +6′ movement, and Immunity to Cold. Rare variants may be able to shapeshift to look normal, be stronger (Str 10), have +2B/2L armor, have Wings (-2 to Str and Sta), or regenerate when they eat people.
  • Wendigo occasionally result when someone resorts to cannibalism. They’re bloodstained apelike creatures with massive talons and fangs and live to feast on more human flesh. Characters who destroy Wendigos gain a portion of one of it’s special powers.
  • Wendigo which eat close friends or relatives gain +1 Str, +1 Wits, +2 Stamina, and 2L/2B Soak. Characters who count Coup on such a creature can spend 1 point of willpower to regain 1 health level.

Werewolf

Physical

Str

5

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

4

Social

Chr

4

 

Man

2

 

App

2

Mental

Per

5

 

Int

2

 

Wit

7

  • Willpower 3
  • Abilities: Brawl 4, Dodge 2
  • Specialities: Intimidate 2
  • Health Levels: 2x -0, 4x -1, 4x -2, 2x -4, and Incapacitated. 4B and 2L Soak.
  • Special Powers; Bite and Claws do Str+2L damage, Infection (anyone bitten by a werewolf must make a D3 [Sta=Res] check or become a werewolf in 1d6 days. Especially evil werewolves may manage to retain their mental abilities and skills as wolfmen. (Dualists can do so as well since they have a second functioning brain).
  • Greater werewolves get +2 to their physical abilities, always retain their mental abilities, often possess other magical powers, and may command lesser werewolves. They’re extremely rare.
  • Do any of us really need an explanation of what a werewolf is?

Wormling

Physical

Str

4

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

3

Social

Chr

1

 

Man

3

 

App

1

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

3

  • Willpower 5
  • Abilities: Awareness 2, Brawl 3, Dodge 2, Engineering 2, Stealth 4, Survival 3
  • Specialities: Spitting 2
  • Health Levels: 2 each -0, -1, -2 & -4, Incapacitated. 4B and 2L Soak.
  • Special Powers; Immune to Corrosives, Spit Acid (6L, can be used to tunnel through rock or weaken buildings), Burrow thru soil at half walking speed, Claws do 10L damage.
  • These wormlike humanoids are intelligent pack-hunters who like to set traps using their ability to burrow or weaken structures. They normally hunt in groups of 6-10 and should be considered extremely dangerous.

Converting Deadlands to Exalted

   While we were playing the Dualistic Exalted Campaign, we happened to spend some time in the Deadlands Wasted West setting. Naturally enough, that meant that we needed some way to convert characters – so here we are: a set of rules for converting Deadlands characters to Exalted rules.

Deadlands Character Conversions

  • Nature : Selected to suit the character
  • Virtues : Normally Conviction or Valor 3, others at 2. Willpower starts at 5

Attributes

Converts From

 

at

=

Strength

Strength

 

d4

1

Dexterity

Deftness

 

d6

2

Stamina

Vigor

 

d8

3

Charisma

Mein

 

d10

4

Manipulation

Spirit

 

d12

5

Appearance

(Assign)

 

Each +2

+1

Perception

Cognition

     

Intelligence

Smarts

     

Wits

Quickness

     
  • Nimbleness and Knowledge are not used.
  • Using the normal card-draw system this gives an average of 25 attribute points versus 22 for normal Heroic Mortals. However Deadlands characters don’t get any free backgrounds.
  • Add (Guts + Grit)/3 to Willpower
  • Essence defaults to 1. It may be increased to 2 for characters with Grit 4+.

   Aptitudes convert to Abilities as follows. Divide the highest score among those listed by two to convert:

Academia, Science

Academics

Animal Wrangling, Riding, Teamster

Ride/Animal Handler

Artillery, Quick Draw, Shooting, Speed Load

Firearms

Arts, Trade, Tinkering

Craft

Climbing, Swimming

Athletics

Bluff, Disguise, Performing, Persuasion, Ridicule, and Tale-Telling

Performance

Demolitions

Engineering

Dodge

Dodge

Driving

Drive

Fighting

Brawl or Melee

Filching, Gambling, Lockpicking, Slight Of Hand, and Streetwise

Larceny

Language

Linguistics

Leadership, Overawe

Presence

Medicine

Medicine

Professional

Bureaucracy or Computer

Scrutinize

Awareness or Investigation

Sneak

Stealth

Throwing

Thrown

Tracking, Scrounging, and Survival

Survival

Finishing Touches:

   Any character with Faith knows a minor protection ritual. More advanced Arcane Backgrounds allow the use of a particular field of Deadlands Magic, below. Each individual spell, miracle, or other effect known counts as a separate ritual. Two backgrounds – Psyker and Doomsayer – include an active essence pool. Sadly, as a rule, Deadlands characters can only have one magical affinity, and use it as a base for their effect die pools. Deadlands rituals are inherently Quick.

Creating Heroic Deadlands Characters:

  • Gain access to the Academics, Computer, Drive, Engineering, and Firearms skills. May not take the Artifact, Familiar, Knowledge, or Manse backgrounds, or the Lore or Occult skills. May take the Experience background at a maximum level of 2 if, and only if, the character background justifies it. Get 18 bonus points.
  • Nature: Chosen normally. Not usually stressed much.
  • Attributes: All have a base of 1, 6/4/3 points to spend. No more that one at 5 – and a cap of 4 is recommended. +1 per 4 bonus points spent.
  • Abilities: 22 points. No more that one at 5, but no other restrictions. +1 per 2 bonus points spent, +1 speciality per bonus point spent or +2 per ability point spent.
  • Virtues: All have a base of 1, 5 Points to spend, may not go above 3 without spending bonus points at +1 per 3. Virtues will not be stressed; deadlanders may opt to ignore them and default to a base will of 5.
  • Willpower: Defaults to sum of two highest virtues or 5 if virtues are ignored, +1 per 2 bonus points.
  • Backgrounds: 0 Points, +1 per bonus point, 5 Max.
  • Flaws: Maximum of -10 points, GM approval required. Gain +1 bonus point per -1 point of flaws taken.
  • Merits: +1 per bonus point spent. Rituals cost cost 2 points each. No maximum.
  • Essence: 1. 2 for +10 bonus points, 3 for +25. Mortal characters do not get an essence pool unless they take relevant merits.

Conversion Notes

  • Aptitudes in Deadlands correspond to Abilities, and superficially have the same 1-5 range. However, since Deadlands characters can raise aptitudes without limit and hit “professional” at 4 instead of 2, the level of a deadland aptitude is divided by two when converting it to Exalted Abilities. More importantly, Abilities are a lot broader than Aptitudes. If more than one is listed for conversion use only the highest.
  • Edges and Hindrances translate directly into Merits and Flaws. The two systems even have the same 10 point limit on Hindrances/Flaws.

Deadlands Magic

   In theory, magic is pretty straightforward; you take some essence motes, you shape them, and you turn loose your effect.

   Of course, there are practical complications.

   You can get power from your own willpower or mote reserves (an essence pool or “strain”), from nonsentient sources (ghost rock, radiation, mystical artifacts, ley lines, etc), or from spirits. Personal motes and those from spirits are generic. Forces can only be used to power effects appropriate to the force in question.

   Characters with Essence Pools work normally. Whether you call it motes or strain, those mortals who have spent years learning to channel essence usually recover a mote an hour. Channeling external energies requires an affinity (“arcane background”) and a willpower check. A success powers your spell. On a botch, the energies run wild through your body.

   Ghost Rock can fuel almost any effect, but a botch incinerates you and traps your spirit in a new chunk of Ghost Rock. Simple failures result in a bout of Ghost Rock Fever if you fail a (Resistance + Stamina) roll. Ghost Rock provides 6 motes of essence.

   Radiation is used to blast and transmute things. Botching results in a mutation. Radiation provides 0 motes in clean lands, 3 motes in most of the wasted west, and 6 in major radioactive areas – although those present their own dangers.

   Hexcraft forces a spirit to give you power through a contest of wills. If you win you get power. If you lose by three or more or botch, the spirit gets to do what it wants – and even benign spirits don’t react well to being forced. Minor/Major/Grand spirits (Wills of 2-5, 5-8, and 9-10) provide 3/6/9 motes. For random backlash roll a die: 1 Drain 1d6 XP, 2-3 take 4d bashing damage, 4 take 4d lethal damage, 5 knocked unconscious, 6 drain all your essence motes or temporary will if no motes, 7 you go mad for a week or two or are briefly possessed, 8-9 the spirit twists your spell according to its whims, 10 the spirit uses some power of its own or sends something after you. Hexcrafting can be used in Creation, but the place is so spirit-dominated that it’s pretty much suicidal.

   Blessings are granted by willing spirits on the same scale as Hexcraft. Spirits of Light include nature spirits (minor, and hard to find in the Wasted West), powerful totems (major) and even gods (grand). Sadly, they want favors-in-advance, although Major and Grand spirits do count worship and general good deeds for their faithful, and only help relevant effects. Still, nothing goes wrong – and you don’t expend your favor – if you botch. Spirits of Darkness will work with those who serve their evil purposes, but can’t restrain their malevolence. They don’t make an opposed roll, but will inflict (vicious!) backlash if you botch. They also don’t like letting others use their power (reduce their effective level by 1).

   Harrowed Powers are basically just spirit charms. The Harrowed have access to the full essence pool and recovery rate of the spirit in them however. They may have one of their own as well.

   Mystical Artifacts, Ley Lines, Nodes, and Times can have essence pools and recoveries of their own. These can usually be tapped by anyone who happens to have access to them, but are extremely rare. A botch usually results in a level of damage and in your spell going out of control.

Special modifiers include

  • Interventions are the direct acts of Grand spirits – parting small seas, raising armies of the dead, etcetera. Mortals may be able to ask for such a thing if they have a link with a spirit and have a major favor coming. Don’t count on it.
  • Mad Science Gadgets embody a very specific spell effect and absorb any resulting Ghost Rock backlash. Sadly, they malfunction (d10: 1-7 Minor, 8-9 Major, 10 Catastrophic) if the user fails the will roll to activate them and always blow up on a botch. The design is the hard part; it takes a passable theory and an extended engineering roll (at a difficulty set by the GM according to absurdity) with 12 total successes. A botch along the way results in gadget backlash, as shown below.
    • For random gadget backlash roll a die and become: 1 Absent Minded, 2 Deluded, 3 Paranoid, 4 Phobic, 5 Schizoid or 6 Possessive. If you roll higher the device 7 is possessed, 8 brings Bad Luck, 9 draws sprits, or 10 gets a +3 on the roll when it malfunctions.
    • Thaumotech Devices are advanced Mad Science Devices that don’t need activation rolls and therefore never malfunction or burn out. On the other hand, you have to know the effect used (learning it as a ritual with a chance of mental backlash) and must roll willpower and suffer gadget backlash both when creating the initial design and when building one.
    • Alchemical Elixirs are simply chemically-based Mad Science Gadgets. They malfunction a lot less drastically, but you can only make one dose at a time.

Shaping the effect

   Since Deadlanders don’t have access to the general Occult ability or to the Thaumaturgic Sciences they must buy each effect as a separate ritual. Most cost 1-3 motes or one willpower to use and are only available to those with a particular affinity (for example, psykers get telekinetic and telepathic effects while priests get wards and power against magical evils). Each extra mote from an external source grants an extra success. Characters may combine one sentient and one nonsentient source; this produces the most powerful results, but subjects the user to the dangers of each source used. Effects are simply built using the general thaumaturgy system.

   Classically Mad Scientists use Ghost Rock, Psykers use Essence Pools, Doomsayers use Essence Pools and Radiation, Hucksters use Hexcraft, and Black Magi, Shamans, Templars, and the Blessed use Blessings.

The Dimensional Auditors

   The Dualistic Exalted characters never encountered the Dimensional Auditors directly – and speculated about just what they were up to (attempting to stabilize the various dimensions, preventing dimensional travel, attempting to monopolize dimensional travel, involved in some cosmic war, etc, etc, etc) – but the results were fairly obvious: get mildly disruptive and you could expect a few minor Auditorial Constructs to start poking around and trying to patch things up. Cause major disturbances and gross disruptions of the local reality, and you could expect a killer swarm to try to exterminate you and cover up the disruptions you were causing.

   As constructs, these “creatures” have no willpower, and no social attributes. Built-in ranged weapons use the “Thrown” skill. Auditorial Constructs are designed to have the minimum possible impact on entering a dimension; they’re basically just a pattern imprinted on some local atmosphere and a bit of transmutation catalyst to provide power. There are five basic types of Auditorial Constructs:

 

Tetrahedrons

Physical

Str

1

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

3

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

1

 

Wit

2

  • Abilities: Athletics 1, Awareness 1, Stealth 1, and Thrown 1.
  • Health Levels: 4x -0, Disrupted. 5B/2L Soak
  • Special Powers; Armor-2, Ion Blast (6B, may fire a maximum of twice per turn using “Thrown”),
  • Tetrahedrons, scuttling on their lower corners, are the most fragile, foolish, and lowest-powered of all the Auditor’s constructs. They’re also by far the easiest to spawn, so they still see plenty of use.

Cubes

Physical

Str

3

 

Dex

3

 

Sta

3

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

2

  • Abilities: Athletics 2, Awareness 2, Climb 2, Stealth 2, and Thrown 2.
  • Health Levels: 6x -0, Disrupted. 6B/3L Soak.
  • Special Powers; Armor-3, Ion Blast (6L), Paralysis Ray (D4 Sta + End, lose one action per point by which it’s missed), Plasma Blast (4L area of effect flame attack).
  • Cubes, leaping from point to point on blasts of air, are probably the most common auditorial construct. They’re quite effective against normals, and are pretty good against more powerful opponents if the area isn’t too open to let them work together.

Octahedrons

Physical

Str

3

 

Dex

4

 

Sta

4

Mental

Per

2

 

Int

2

 

Wit

3

  • Abilities: Athletics 3, Awareness 3, Dodge 3, Engineering 3, Stealth 3, and Thrown 3.
  • Health Levels: 8x -0, Disrupted. 8B/5L Soak.
  • Special Powers; Armor-4, Force Field Generation (may create barriers equivalent to wood for 2 health levels, fire force-bolts or blades for 8B or 8L, and manipulate objects at short range even without hands), slow levitation or rapid movement on force-legs.
  • The quick and adaptable Octahedrons are sent in if something needs to be blocked off or when swift maneuvering is vital. They’re most commonly deployed as a group of four, but two full groups of four may be used on urgent missions.

Dodecahedrons

Physical

Str

5

 

Dex

5

 

Sta

5

Mental

Per

3

 

Int

3

 

Wit

3

  • Abilities: Athletics 4, Awareness 4, Dodge 4, Larceny 4, Melee 4, Presence 4, and Stealth 4.
  • Health Levels: 12x -0, Disrupted. 11B/6L Soak
  • Special Powers; Armor-6, Strikes for 12L at ranges of up to ten feet, immune to light-based effects, sees in full spectral range, gains a +3 bonus on stealth checks in dim light or water.
  • These deadly crystal constructs strike by extruding crystal blades and move about by extending long spikes and then “flowing” along them. Fortunately they require so much power to spawn that they’re pretty rare. More that two or three at a time is almost unheard-of.

Icosahedrons

Physical

Str

4

 

Dex

5

 

Sta

4

Mental

Per

8

 

Int

7

 

Wit

8

  • Abilities: Athletics 5, Awareness 5, Bureaucracy 5, Craft 5, Occult 5, Presence 5, Stealth 5, and Thrown 5.
  • Health Levels: 20x -0, Disrupted. 14B/10L Soak
  • Special Powers; Armor-10, 21-Point Essence Pool, may extend fractal energy tendrils to manipulate small objects, Dimensional Cannon (20B damage to target or 15B to an area, but takes 3 rounds to charge), Flight.
  • The deadly d20’s possess considerable offensive and defensive power, but their true might lies in their ability to evaluate situations, manipulate energies, and command other forces. Fortunately for everyone, they require an immense amount if power to spawn. Even the most apocalyptic missions rarely justify the use of two Icosahedrons. Note that they normally use the Advanced Thaumaturgy rules in conjunction with their essence pool and occult skill, and thus can produce a wide variety of relatively weak effects.

   OK, now you can use all those other dice for something while playing a White Wolf Storyteller System game: they make perfect markers for the enemy – and, since they all have the same number of health levels as sides, you can simply use the numbers on them to track their remaining health levels.

Advanced Metamagic: Thaumaturgy

   For today, it’s the next section on the advanced metamagic magic rules for Shadowrun – in this case for Thaumaturgy, the magical skill of channeling the powers of normal and free spirits. As living links between the material world and astral space, Thaumaturgists have some unique talents available to them.

   Astral Fold allows the user to create a pocket of astral space which exists only in relationship to him- or her-self and can be used to store physical objects. Such a “pocket” does not encumber the user, can store up to (Magic Rating) kilograms, is only accessible to the user, and can be accessed as a complex action. Upgrades include hiding the existence of the pocket from astral observers, increasing it’s capacity (multiply by 1+[the number of times this option is taken), allowing the pocket to be accessed as a (1) simple action or (2) a free action, allowing the user to make worn articles – clothing, armor, or restraints – appear and disappear, allowing the user to store liquids and gases and keep them separate, allowing the user to shunt bullets (not an easy check) or injected toxins and similar contaminants (automatic) into storage, to keep stored items in time stasis, and allowing the user to cause stored doses of compounds and drugs to reappear within his or her own body.

   Arsenal allows the user to store spells, partially bypassing the basic “so-many-times-within-this-time-period” limitations of basic thaumaturgy. Unfortunately, due to the amount of sheer, raw, power which backs up most thaumaturgic spells, each level of Arsenal will only allow the user to store one major or two minor spells. Almost as importantly, the power-aura of such a concentration of magic is virtually unconcealable; each level of the Arsenal metamagic that a character is currently using effectively cancels out one level of Masking – at least as far as attempting to appear as anything but a major magical entity goes.

   Devotion allows a thaumaturgist to draw power from abstract concepts, albeit only from major philosophical and religious views or from universal ideals. Unlike actual spirits, drawing power from such forces does not require karma: instead it requires actual dedication to the ideal or philosophy – usually demonstrated by appropriate actions. Adhering to such requirements will allow the user to draw on a package of effects associated with the ideal in question. Each time Devotion is taken, it applies to a different concept, ideal, or viewpoint.

   Drawing Down the Moon allows the user to build up a temporary spell structure and then pour raw power from his or her patrons through it. Unfortunately, the effects of such constructs are limited by the magical skills used to create them, by the fact that such jury-rigged constructs tend to leak random magic in all directions when subjected to such an overload, by a drastic reduction in the effective force due to such power leakage, and by what energies the user’s patrons make available. The user may keep one temporary construct ready per level of Drawing Down the Moon. Other upgrades can reduce the side effects, reduce the time required to create a temporary construct, or provide bonus dice on the necessary skill rolls. In general, creating a temporary structure calls for a specific knowledge in a particular field of magic.

   Extension allows the user to spread the effects of his or her granted spells over a much wider area and/or a greater time. Thus, for example, the user could change a mighty fireball into a citywide heatwave (unpleasant, but not damaging), or a rain of sparks that confuses thermographic vision, use it to ignite small fires in a wide radius, or set something on fire for a considerable length of time. Additional improvements can provide finer control, allow the user to combine multiple spells into an effect, or allow effects to be built up over ever-greater stretches of time (potentially incorporating large numbers of spells into a single effect).

    Warding Aura infuses whatever the user wears with arcane energy, in an ever-increasing progression. The first level protects your clothing and equipment, rendering it more resistant to destructive forces (thus allowing, for example, the old “indestructible pants” effect). More importantly, the first level protects the user against armor-piercing or armor-ignoring effects; laser, antivehicle, shock, and similar effects do not half the user’s armor and astral attacks do not ignore it (although it still doesn’t work against physicla combat spells). Upgrades include the ability to infuse (1) melee and then (2) ranged weapons with magical energy as well, to cause damaged items to function normally, to enhance the functions of various items (providing a pool of enhancement dice to draw upon), to enhance armor even further, to allow the user to manipulate the environment immediately about himself or herself, or to pass through the earth more readily (by controlling it and moving it out of the way).

Advanced Thaumaturgy Abilities:

   Accumulation enhances the link between a thaumaturgist and his or her patrons, allowing them to draw on his or her experiences to gain tiny amounts of karma (trivial to a mortal but – over time – well worthwhile to a free spirit) and gather information, as well as to influence events about their clients. In return, the user can refresh his or her allotment of spells somewhat more quickly. Upgrades apply to particular spirits, and allow the user to build up pools of bonus spells by doing specific favors for that spirit.

   Bestowal is essentially the magical version of skillwires, allowing the user to draw on the skills associated with a particular spirit. Unfortunately, this is limited to particular patron spirits and to relatively low skill levels. Additional upgrades can be used to add additional spirts and their associated sets of skills or to upgrade the level of skills which can be accessed form a particular spirit. Perhaps sadly, it is easier to access knowledge skills than it is to access active skills with this ability. On the other hand, powerful spirits often have access to information which can be found nowhere else.

   Channeling allows the user to unleash his or her spells through another character to whom he has an astral link. Unfortunately, this tends to disrupt such links, at least temporarily and – for passive links, such as DNA samples – often permanently. Upgrades can allow the user to release additional spells before the link breaks, to release spells through links without the cooperation of the individual on the other end,

   Compact is simply a permanent link with a very powerful spirit which grants a permanent spell effect. This may be taken repeatedly to obtain additional spell effects, but works best with protective or relatively passive effects: direct enhancements tend to overstress the user’s body unless he or she is careful not to push his or her limits – which prevents even the most powerful compacter from competing with physical adepts and aces on their own terms.

   Consecration allows the user to link items with spirits, although this normally requires the consent of the spirit involved and a fair amount of karma. Upgrades here include reducing the karma cost, allowing the user to attempt to force links upon unwilling spirits, tapping into the power of spirits which you have found a link to, linking with greater and more powerful spirits, and using such items to (1) communicate with and (2) attempt to summon the spirits such items are linked to.

   Countermagic simply allows the user to ground out incoming magic. Upgrades include the ability to ground out existing spells, to affect an additional target at the same time, to drain background counts, to create low-magic areas, to injure dual-natured creatures by draining their magic, to drain spirits, to attempt to remove quickened of otherwise permanent magics, and to temporarily return awakened creatures to their base states.

   Guardian allows the user to anchor spirits serving a particular patron to the material plane – and normally means that such a patron will assign a spirit or two to take advantage of that ability. In compensation to the user, such spirits will also do him or her an occasional favor. This may be taken repeatedly, to allow the user to serve as a spirit anchor for an ever-larger collection of spirits, but caution is in order: having too many spirits using you as a contact point is a wonderful way to get in ever-increasing amounts of trouble.

   Guidance is actually extremely simple: one of your spiritual patrons occasionally offers you hints and clues – as well as occasionally tweaking events (an effect roughly equivalent to spending a karma point or two) to steer things in the direction they want them to go. You can, of course, align yourself with more than one patron; all you need to do is take Guidance again.

   Miraculum is fairly straightforward: you can sense what powers your patrons have available, and offer them small amounts of Karma for a single use of whatever power you happen to find convenient at the moment. That isn’t strictly a “miracle”, bit getting just the power you need at a moments notice can be extremely convenient. Further upgrades can (1) allow the user to determine what other pacts his current patrons might be open to without having to research them, (2) determine what pacts a potential patron might make available, and even (3) allow the user to determine what patrons can be reached at particular times and locations.

   Prophecy allows the user to sense metaplanar events and disturbances, providing clues as to future events, to upcoming mana disturbances, and to the activities of major spirits and powers. Further upgrades can provide greater range and accuracy, allow the user to analyze spirits on the fly, to monitor the activities of particular groups of major spirits, or to more readily research metamagical techniques.

   Resistances provide the user with minor innate powers – such as the ability to ignite flammable objects by touch – or immunity to highly-specific effects, such as particular spells, or “building fires”, or any of a wide variety of other minor abilities. A character can acquire as many resistances or minor powers as he or she cares to pay for. Unlike the Compact metamagic, however, the user may turn these powers on and off.

   Spellweaving allows the user to channel aspected background count as if it was a spirit, producing effects appropriate to the aspect. For example, a “sacred place of purity” could be tapped into to purge a poison, to cast out an intruding spirit, or to cure an addiction. Upgrades can be used to set up links to particular places to allow limited use of their powers elsewhere, to upgrade the user’s fine control of the effects he or she produces, or to tap into geomantic effects from afar.

The Renraku Arcology

   Given that the characters are now getting involved with the Renraku Arcology, here’s a little basic information on it – mostly from publicly-released sources. Please note that this bears very little resemblance to the version described in the later-edition sourcebooks, since that version was largely impractical. This version isn’t guaranteed to be practical either, but I suspect that it comes considerably closer.

   The primary arcology building – exclusive of the 100-foot buffer zone and it’s outbuildings, lawn, statuary, outer-fringe barriers, and access corridors – has a footprint of 1.2 square miles. The arcology itself has 8 subfloors, 32 full-size aboveground floors, and 8 partial floors above that. The 8 subfloors and 32 aboveground floors have roughly one square mile of usable space each after walls, elevator shafts, service areas, and similar necessities are accounted for. In general, the floors average about 18 feet: industrial and split-level floors tend to be higher than average, single-level office and storage floors tend to be shorter.

   The residential floors offer a (very generous) 450 square feet per person – albeit with a split-level design (this internal floor division is not counted when considering the overall number of floors, since it only increases the actual available size by just over 60%) and a fair portion of that space devoted to common areas (micro-parks, clubs and bars, childcare centers, and so on). Each of the primary residential floors is designed to handle a population of up to 100,000 (although 80,000 is closer to ideal), with a selection of reconfigurable family, dual occupancy, and single-person apartments and service areas.

   The main roof is surrounded by an six-floor rise approximately 250 feet thick on all sides, housing executive apartments, communications systems, and similar items. The rooftop of this area includes the satellite communications systems, landing pads, and so on. The central roof is devoted to a roofed park and greenhouse area. It is normally reserved for the use of the residents.

   Internal transportation systems include corridors, stairs, moving walkways, escalators, elevators, and an internal monorail system used for heavy transport and large-volume transportation.

   The defense systems are quite extensive, starting with heavily-reinforced structures, armored glass, and external walls more formidable than most main battle tanks. Internal surveillance is potentially extensive, but – in practice – has many blind spots, if only because there aren’t enough security personal to properly monitor even a fraction of the instruments. Active defenses are generally classified.

The Floors:

  • -8: Aquaculture, water reserves and recycling, Backup Fusion Plant
  • -7: Forced-Growth Hydroponics
  • -6: Classical Hydroponics
  • -5: Large-Scale Processing
  • -4: Industrial, Primary Production, Materials Recycling and Refining
  • -3: Storage. Also special-needs security confinement areas.
  • -2: Building Support, service tunnels, subway transport access.
  • -1: Mall, Bus Station, Monorail Station, Parking Garage, Vehicle Shops, Major Entertainment Areas (Zoo, swimming pools, circus, etc).
  • 01: Mall, Major Entertainment Areas.
  • 02: Primary Security, clinics, professional services
  • 03: Secondary Hydroponics, Forced-Growth Atmosphere Recycling
  • 04: Industrial, Secondary Processing
  • 05: Mechanized “Farming”.
  • 06: Residential
  • 07: Internal Recreational Complexes.
  • 08: Primary fusion plants. High-energy research
  • 09: Food Processing
  • 10: Storage
  • 11: Industrial, Tertiary Processing, Assembley, Development, Microtronics.
  • 12: Residential
  • 13: University, Training and Research Centers, Hospitalization, Cyberware Research.
  • 14: Services
  • 15: Industrial, Reprocessing.
  • 16: Internal Park
  • 17: Security Operations
  • 18: Residential
  • 19: Storage
  • 20: Offices, Industrial Design and Research, Middle Management
  • 21: Security Command,
  • 22: Support Services
  • 23: Entertainment Production, Software and Simense Labs
  • 24: Residential
  • 25: Clean Room Assembly, Computer Manufacturing, Labs,
  • 26: Storage
  • 27: Secondary Hydroponics, Forced-Growth Atmosphere Recycling
  • 28: Magical Research, Paranormal Zoology
  • 29: Spas, executive facilities.
  • 30: Residential
  • 31: Robotics Manufacturing and Maintenance.
  • 32: Park support systems, Bioresearch.
  • Primary Roof: Main Park, Sports, Carnival.
  • Riser Floors: Upper Management, Executive Apartments, Air Traffic Control, Aircraft and Drone Hangers and Shops.

   Note that the floor purposes and descriptions are extremely general; there are numerous other facilities on each floor.

Shadowrun: New Sorcery Metamagic

   For our party sorcerers, here we have some new Metamagic to try to get.

   Combining allows the user to ignore the drain and casting target number penalties for casting two spells at the same time. Upgrade include allowing additional spells to be cast at the same time without penalty (at one per upgrade), allowing dice drawn from the user’s magic pool to apply to each spell cast rather than to only one of them, or to treat any spells cast simultaneously as a single spell for sustaining purposes.

   Defiling allows the user to compensate for drain by displacing the damage to other living things in a radius of (Magic Rating) meters. The basic version can only handle stun damage and can only transfer it to unresisting targets (such as plants and fungi), but – like any other method of drain-transference – upgrades it to physical damage. The effectiveness depends on how much plant life there is in the area to destroy. Upgrades allow the user to (1) transfer physical drain to the area, destroying not only lower life forms but the areas ability to support them, (2) to affect resisting targets (such as animals and people if they fail to resist), inflicting physical damage if compensating for stun drain and essence damage if compensating for physical drain, (3) to extend the drain across greater areas, and (4) to increase the effect of his or her spells by channeling extra energy into them. Other options include the ability to delay the effects of the drain for long enough to escape the area, to control it so that the organisms and area affected are only damaged and not destroyed, and the ability to reverse the trick, channeling the user’s own energies into the creatures and land to restore them.

   Faceting allows a spell which affects multiple targets – such as an area-effect enhancement spell – to be broken up into individual subspells affecting each individual target. This causes drain as if casting the initial spell, requires a successful Sorcery check against the force of the spell and, regrettably, costs Karma equal to the force of the spell. Quickened or otherwise sustained spells remain so, which may cause notable penalties for anyone who is actively sustaining them. Upgrades can reduce the karma cost or allow a caster to increase the number of targets affected by a single spell.

   Magery simply increases the user’s magic pool and astral combat pool by one die. It may be taken repeatedly.

   Power Word (X) allows the user to cast a chosen spell as a simple action. Unfortunately, this increases the drain level by one (spells which already have a “D” damage code cannot be used as Power Words) and prevents the user from using his or her magic pool with the casting – or to resist drain. Upgrades include (1) allowing the user to employ up to (Sorcery/2) dice from his or her magic pool in conjunction with such a spell, (2) reducing such a spell to a free action, (3) allowing the spell to be used as a defensive reflex – such as to protect the user from an incoming attack, and (4) allowing the full magic pool to be used with such a spell. Unfortunately, such upgrades also only apply to a single spell; if you want two power words, you’ll need to start the entire sequence all over again.

   Spellcraft allows the user to more readily modify spells. The user may translate spell formulas between traditions or upgrade their force in one-fourth the usual time and may apply an extra two points of limitations when learning spells. Upgrades include the ability to apply up to four points of limitations to particular aspects of a spell, the ability to apply up to eight points of limitations to a spell, and the ability to halve the target number increase in spell research for making spells easier to learn.

   Spellforging allows the user to learn spells more quickly and to upgrade learned spells – or to discard them and regain the karma spent on them – rather than relearning them. Upgrades include the ability to design spells more quickly (since you can build and test portions of them readily), to design spells without reference works, to reduce the karma cost of buying spells in the first place, to create spell formula foci, to “learn” single-shot spells without expending karma, or boost the effective force ratings of a limited set of the users learned spells.

   Timebinding allows the user to spread the drain and effort of spellcasting over lengthy periods (normally one day per box of drain the spell usually inflicts), allowing him or her to give spells forces up into the twenties, regardless of the force at which they can normally be cast. Additional upgrades can provide access to an array of instinctive force-0 spells, allow the user to upgrade the drain level of a spell to cast it directly at a greater-than-normally-available force, or allow a spell to be cast over many days so as to affect a much larger than usual area (an effect also known as “Epic Magic”).

   Timebinding was a major element in the first edition campaign back in 1989, where the it played a role in the instinctive magic of infants – allowing them to slowly create a very high-powered astral bond with their caretakers. It was why infants slept so much – but, as they grew, they gradually lost the unquestioning acceptance of the magic of the world which allowed them to bypass the need for training and initiation in certain fields. It took a great deal of work for older mages to recapture that sense of naive wonder, and to see the world once again unrestrained by space and time – but it was the gateway to the higher mysteries. The easiest way to get a clue as to how it worked was to be skilled enough and attentive enough to observe an infant’s attempts to bond with you – which also neatly set the path you were likely to take. If you choose to accept the bond and the responsibility of caring for the child, that opened one set of paths, rejecting the bond offered another – and twisting it so as to use the child as a magical battery and tool opened a third (and much darker) set of options. The paths were entangled in the reasons for the great cycle of magic, the existence of shapeshifters, the pre-human races, the time wars, and many other elements of the world. Unfortunately, later sourcebooks and editions established things which didn’t fit those paths. I may see if I can rummage out the old notes and adapt the paths for current editions later on.

Advanced Sorcery Metamagic Abilities:

   Absorption can be upgraded to allow the user to drain power from spirits, from foci, or even from ongoing spell effects, to hold power for later use, to allow the user to feed raw power into other existing effects, to let the user simply radiate it, or to let the user turn a normal spell into an aura.

   Disjunction is basically an absolute: within it’s area of effect, magic ceases to exist for a time. Upgrades revolve around working at ever-increasing ranges, increasing the duration, or increasing the level of fine control. While a “personal immunity” upgrade would, of course, be about the ultimate sorcerous power and defense, there are sound theoretical grounds to believe it impossible.

   Duplication allows the user to duplicate the formula of observed spells. Upgrades can allow the user to attempt to duplicate such a spell on the fly or to put formulas to use directly from a record.

   Extension simply gives spells with a duration of “sustained” an unattended duration of 1d6 turns per time Extension is taken after the user stops sustaining them. It may be taken as often as desired.

   Maintaining simply reduces the penalties for sustaining spells and may be taken repeatedly to continue reducing them. Further upgrades can allow the user to maintain spells while (1) sleeping, or even while (2) knocked unconscious, to transfer the effort of maintaining a spell to an allied spirit, or even to make such spells intermittently self-sustaining, so that he or she can do something else and simply give them a few moments of attention every turn or so.

   Matrix allows the user to designate a spell which is unaffected by astral disturbances short of mana voids and can be used without having to become dual-natured. Further upgrades allow the user to swap out which spell is so designated given a few minutes in which to work, to protect additional spells, to reduce the drain of a protected spell, and to upgrade the effective maximum force of a protected spell.

    Psychic Reservoir provides a two-box “stun buffer” that can only be used to absorb damage from drain the first time it’s taken and provides one additional box per additional time it’s taken. Other upgrades can increase the rate at which it recovers above the base of one per hour or allow the user to store enough magic to cast a few spells under low-magic conditions.

   Reflecting allows the user to turn spells back against their caster. Upgrades can allow the user to reflect many awakened or spirit powers, to protect areas, to incorporate reflecting functions into wards, and even the ability to reflect emotional energies – turning hostility, insults, belittlement, and even sarcasm back upon the user.

   Severing allows the user to break astral links, including the ties to genetic samples, links to foci, and similar bonds. Upgrades include the ability to attack the bonds between a conjurer and his or her spirits, the ability to attack the link between a body and an astrally-projecting creature, the ability to (1) attack with a magical weapon without inflicting physical wounds, and (2) to partially, or (3) totally bypass physical armor, or even to (4) attack the target’s essence directly, and the ability to attack specific mental or mystical traits, such as addictions or links with supernatural entities (this is usually temporary).

   Shielding provides bonus dice for spell defense and allows the user to increase the target numbers of magical effects used against anyone he or she is protecting. Upgrades can increase both bonuses, allow the user to protect an area rather than specific targets, increase teh target numbers for unresisted spells, such as enhanced senses, render the user automatically immune to his or her own spells (in case of reflection or when you really need that ground-zero fireball),

   Trigger allows the user to “precast” a limited number of spells. In it’s basic form, this simply means taking the drain in advance – although stored spells lose potency in 28 days. Further upgrades can provide bonus dice (for having been able to take your time) when releasing stored spells, increase the number of spells which can be stored, allow the user to release more than one precast spell at the same time without penalty, extend the length of time which spells can be successfully stored, and (at very high levels of initiation) to allow spells to precast themselves when specific trigger conditions are met, similar to “anchoring”.

   Will Force enhances spontaneous sorcery, such as magical children and untrained potential mages are wont to use when under stress. The basic rules for spontaneous sorcery are actually relatively simple: the would-be magus states what spell he or she is attempting to use (whether or not such a spell actually exists), pays a karma point (which will recover normally; kids sometimes get away without using the karma point, but no one really knows why), makes a willpower (6) check to see what force the spell will go off at (no successes means a failure, the user need not use all his or her successes), allocates up to (Intelligence) dice from his or her spell pool to cast it with, and then resists drain at +1 power and +1 level (spells with a base drain level above serious cannot be cast spontaneously). Characters with Will Force can drastically reduce these modifiers. Level (1) reduces the willpower target number to 5, and eliminates the +1 power modifier. (2) allows the use of one-half the user’s sorcery skill and normal usage of the spell pool instead of drawing dice directly from the spell pool and allows one attempt at improvisation per day without using a karma point, (3) reduces the target number for the willpower test to 4 and allows up to three improvisational spells per day without spending karma, and (4) allows the full use of the Sorcery skill. Unfortunately, no known upgrade eliminates the need for a willpower check or the +1 drain power level modifiers. Other upgrades can provide a +1d6 modifier on the relevant rolls with respect to a narrow field of magic (yes, “recently observed spells” or “available formulas that I haven’t learned yet” are viable categories and this may be taken several times for a single field) or grant additional karma-free daily attempts at improvised magic.

Shadowrun Penumbra: Seattle Introduction

mount_rainier_over_tacoma_ii

Mount Rainier over Tacoma

   Shadowrun Seattle is located on Puget Sound and Washington Lake, in what used to be Washington State, just below what also used to be the Canadian border. The area is hilly and mountainous, with a variety of lakes and streams. There is at least one major faultline nearby (related to the Cascadia Subduction Zone) and – of course – Mount Rainier, a currently-active volcano. Mount Rainier is located to the south, nearly on the borders of the outlying districts, and is close enough to the city center to dominate the southern skyline to the point where locals simply refer to it as “the mountain”. Since the Great Ghost Dance, occasional ashfalls add to the misery of the people in the ruinous Puyallup district, which is closest to the active vents. The climate is cool and wet, averaging more than 200 rainy days per year. In 2054 it has an (official) population of some 3,000,000 and an area of slightly over 1600 square miles. The population is approximately 66% human, 16% Ork,  10% Dwarf, 5% Elf, 2% Troll, and 1% Exotic. While there’s plenty of pollution remaining to clean up, fusion-based recycling is cheap enough that toxic dumping – like the smog resulting from the burning of now incredibly-expensive fossil fuels – is almost a thing of the past.

   For comparison, New York City as of 2008 had an area or slightly more than 300 square miles and a population of nearly nine million. The city is large and bustling, but there’s still a good deal of space in the area around it.

   Transportation systems within the city include several air taxi services, cars and buses (with computerized traffic control), boats and ferrys, the downtown monorail systems, and a limited (and never completed) subway system left over from the 2020’s. Routes in and out include a sealed-tube Maglev train connecting the city to San Francisco, several ground routes into the bordering Indian Nations, and several air-transport options, including suborbital and orbital jumps. Rumors of magical routes and passages leading into mystical tunnel systems are likely to remain just that – rumors.

   For entertainment, there’s the Matrix, Simsense, Simsense Gaming, Trid broadcasts (including plenty of pirate channels), Music, Sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball, Combat Bikers, and Urban Brawl), Clubs, and Fighting Leagues – ranging from classical boxing on through the Unlimited-Class Wrestling Foundation and on to backroom gladiatorial events – and, of course, a wide selection of drugs, sexual amusements, and eccentric services. In every category, there are plenty of amateurs to compete with the professional groups.

   For more conventional services – stores, restaurants, hotels, shops, hospitals and clinics, mechanics, and everything else – you can count on finding everything from expensive upper-end services on through no-frills hole-in-the-wall outfits, all varying in dependability, discretion, and price. Expect to pay for quality and privacy if you want it, but don’t count on actually getting what you pay for unless you keep a careful eye out. Simply being expensive doesn’t make something good.

   Leaving the secure zones? What with the ghouls, gangs, and monsters, you’ll want at least an armored vest and a pistol. Even the corpcops expect that. You can’t do without your credstick either; it’s your ID, keys, passport, and credit card. If it’s a bad day and you can afford it, you may want to wear a filter mask – but bad days are rare now: fusion plants provide almost all the power, and the cars run on synthetic alcohol and fuel cells.

   The Metroplex has a governor, a cabinet, a council, and ten districts – each with a mayor and a district council – as well as the UCAS military reservation of Fort Lewis.

   The districts in a capsule include:

  • Downtown: Your basic waterfront city core. Big buildings, big crowds, fairly high security, and decent maintenance. Look here for older airports, hospitals, major corporate facilities (including both the Renraku Arcology and the Aztechnology Pyramid), tourist attractions, giant department stores, hot nightclubs, well-tended parks, high-class neighborhoods, governmental buildings, the Seattle University, and diplomatic facilities, such as Council Island.
  • Bellevue: Downtown lite. Second-tier corps, restaurants, small hotels, and other smaller-scale businesses. The support base for downtown proper, and still pretty secure.
  • Tacoma: A waterfront industrial center and transport hub, as well as housing for the relevant workers. The area includes large parts of the Ork Underground. Tacoma has lots of organized crime and gang activity – but it’s mostly fairly low-key, since the local security forces come down heavily on random violence, but are usually willing to overlook petty scams, small thefts, and dealings in lesser illegal substances and items.
  • Everett: Everett ranges from the shipyards, and the UCAS Naval Base on through the rougher and wilder reaches near the border – suitable for anyone who needs cheap, but tolerably-well supervised space, such as the entertainment industry.
  • Renton: A rural area – or at least as rural as Seattle gets – Renton is even hillier and rougher than most of Seattle, and supports a scattering of farms, various light industries, cheap strip malls, lakes, and patches of woods. The local economy is founded on recreation, minor production facilities, and groups who feel that security starts with physical isolation, such as software designers, research facilities, training bases, and private security firms. Renton is about as backwoods as Seattle gets, and is heavy on small local gangs and anti-metahuman prejudice.
  • Auburn: The older developments in Auburn support most of the old-style pre-fusion manufacturing facilities – dirty, inefficient, polluting, and expensive by current standards, but still too big an investment to write off before they fall entirely to pieces. Of course, as primary manufacturing winds down, the syndicates have been moving in – which hasn’t been mixing smoothly with the environmental activists and the gradual collapse of the economy. Local law enforcement is pretty corrupt, not that they have a lot of choice about it.
  • Snohomish: About the only relatively rural district in Seattle, Snohomish’s land and water is intensively farmed, both by major agribusinesses and by traditional-style small farmers – neither of whom get along very well. Places of any real interest to shadowrunners are pretty thin here.
  • Fort Lewis: The UCAS military zone is a district of forested hills (and a bit of waterfront), run and supervised by the military. Most of what goes on here is oriented towards taking money away from the troops or towards supporting their families. Interestingly, that includes a substantial zoological and botanical garden and research installation.
  • Redmond: A classical urban disaster zone, filled with gangs, slums, crime, waste disposal, and prisons, as well as occasional fortified installations run by those who want to avoid all supervision and/or outside laws and are willing to provide their own services. Outside of installations with such independent systems, services are minimal and erratic. There are lots of illegal jackpoints, power taps, safehouses, illegal operations, fixers, fences, and similar shadow conveniences if you know where to look though.
  • Puyallup: Devastated by the eruption of Mt Rainier, this area remains a mostly-abandoned urban disaster zone today. Compared to Puyallup, in its own illegal way, Redmond is thriving. What do you expect of someplace that regularly gets ash from an active volcano dumped on it? Still, if you want a place to hide out, it’s hard to improve on Puyallup. If you want something illegal, including things most ordinary criminals consider too dangerous or perverse to deal in, you can visit the great flea market of crime for relatively little cash. What it may cost in terms of your self-respect, life, or soul, is quite another matter.
  • The Ork Underground isn’t exactly a “district”, but it approaches one relatively closely. The tunnels extend under Downtown, Tacoma, Everett, and the Puyallup Barrens, although they aren’t all connected. The best sections are under Downtown and Puyallup – areas where quite a lot of buildings and entire streets wound up below ground level at one point or another, and were available for adaption. The Ork Underground offers quite a lot of safehouses, storage locations for smuggled goods, and other clandestine services, but tends to be only readily open to those with the proper connections.

Shadowrun III Basics

   For today, it’s a one-page summary sheet for the Shadowrun III game mechanics. And yes, that’s too condensed to actually learn to play with, but it should suffice to keep things clear for those who are joining in without knowing the system. To keep it formatted properly, I’m putting it up as a .PDF file.

Advanced Metamagic: Conjuration

   For today, it’s another bit of the expanded list of  metamagics for Shadowrun Penumbra. In this case, it’s the list for Conjuration.

   Aegis allows the user to provide his or her astral creations with secondary defenses – essentially “armor” against magical disruption. Each level of Aegis negates one success on each test made to banish one of the users conjured spirits, to dispel his or her spells, or to get through his or her barriers. Additional improvements allow structures that do not normally repair themselves (such as spells) to do so, can harden this protection against the piercing metamagic,

   Awakening allows the user to upgrade the astral patterns of a nonsapient animal or living, but unoccupied, body in a fashion similar to the summoning of a watcher spirit – granting the target notable intellectual, and sometimes even modest physical, enhancements. Such an upgrade can be made permanent with the expenditure of karma. Further improvements allow the user to temporarily bestow some portion of his or her skills, to grant other spirit powers (see: Spirit Shaping), to enforce long-term loyalty on previously nonsapient creatures, to to affect sapient targets, and to imbue targets with full spirits rather than simply enhancing their own patterns. Awakening will not work on dual-natured creatures, and sometimes causes normal targets to become dual-natured.

   Greater Binding allows the user to attempt to bind uncontrolled spirits instead of simply banishing them, although the user must be able to summon the type of spirit in question. Further upgrades allow the user to twist the spirit to his or her own purposes, such as by tainting or purifying it.

   Great Summoning allows a group of conjurers to work together to conjure a spirit, much like ritual sorcery. Such spirits may be bound to either the service of the group or to the service of the leader, depending on the desires of the group leader – who must be the one possessing the Great Summoning ability.

   Infusion allows the user to temporarily charge objects with astral energy: charging bullets, knives, or arrows to give them an astral presence requires one success each, charging a wall requires successes depending on the area charged. Unlike a conventional ward, such effects simply render the charged item dual-natured for the moment. Advanced versions allow the user to simply create missiles of pure astral energy, to charge living creatures, to “fuel” vehicles or “charge” batteries, or to combine infusing living things and fueling systems to allow a creature to survive without normal metabolic sources of energy for a time.

   Roleplaying allows the user to summon popular “roles” into his or her own body, granting him or her-self temporary skills (and, unfortunately, magic/2 points worth of personality traits and flaws) appropriate to the chosen role. Oddly enough, practitioners have only a limited range of roles available at first, and gain only modest bonuses. Over time, such roles tend to strengthen – eventually beginning to include minor attribute modifiers and physical changes. If a role is banished (their effective strength is equal to the user’s magic rating), the user will suffer a serious shock, having to resist (Magic)S physical damage.

   Spirit Shaping lets you give the spirits you summon additional powers. Each level of Spiritshaping gives you access to two powers, and lets you give the spirits you summon one extra power from among those you have selected. Note that the user is NOT restricted to the base list of abilities: unique talents – inhabiting vehicles, providing a sensory link and the ability to remote-direct them in the use of your skills, carrying spells, and many other powers are entirely possible. Another advanced power allows the user to bestow extra powers on any spirit that you gain control of.

   Tolling makes the various uses of Conjuration into non-exclusive magical actions. Advanced versions allow the user to infuse other magical effects with an intelligence of their own, rather like a watchers – but any dice devoted to such a purpose must be subtracted from whatever other magical skill is in use. Intelligent effects can locate targets and deliver themselves, just as watchers can. Rumors of magicians able to bestow intelligence and mobility on mana storms, background counts, and natural magical phenomena are hopefully just that – rumors.

Advanced Conjuration Abilities:

   Blessing; is normally used to enhance the targets karma pool or (traditionally) to offer slight benefits across a lengthy period of time. Upgrades include the ability to reduce target numbers, to increase target numbers, to extend the duration of the effect, to guard the recipient against accidents, and to allow the user to spend karma to obtain minor strokes of good fortune.

   Circle Casting allows the user to create and sustain temporary astral barriers and filters. Upgrades include (1) the ability to maintain and repair such constructs more readily, (2) to generate and sustain purely astral foci, (3) to create structures that draw energy from the things inside them, and (4) to create constructs that can be reinforced with physical energies.

   Cleansing allows the user to remove signatures, dampen magical disturbances, and wipe away psychic traces. Upgrades allow the user to create false evidence, to remove astral trails, and to remove permanent magical effects other than healing.

   Compelling allows the user to attempt to command spirits with bodies – including people – although the duration is short and the effects are limited. Upgrades include the ability to lay post-“hypnotic” commands, to exorcize possessing spirits more easily, the ability to (1) command normal animals, and (2) to command swarms and flocks.

   Gathering allows the user to summon a power pool before spellcasting that can be used to either aid the spell, briefly sustain a successful spell, or reduce the drain. Upgraded versions can be used to (1) upgrade the force of the spell, (2) to enhance the number of dice rolled in casting it, (3) to upgrade the force or successes of an already-cast spell, (4) to expand a single-target spell to a small area effect.

   Hosting allows the user to let a common spirit inhabit his or her body and enhance its abilities, whether or not it normally has such a power. Upgrades include the ability to (1) maintain control in the face of more powerful spirits, (2) to restrict spirits attempting possession or inhabitation to simply being hosted, (3) to attempt to force nearby spirits into your body temporarily, and (4) to restrain them there for lengthy periods.

   Invoking allows the user to conjure “great form” spirits. It must be taken separately for each basic type of spirit the user can summon.

   Naming is the ability to deduce, or bestow, true names. Upgrades include the ability to alter true names, to enchant by naming, and to create nymic items.

   Oathbinding allows the user to either call on “higher powers” to enforce an agreement or to bind magical energy to the auras of a willing set of participants in such a way that disrupting the link it creates between them will cause it to ground through the disruptive element, possibly gravely harming them. In practice, it simply adds a bit of mystical enforcement to an agreement. The basic version covers two people and simply inflicts damage on the one who violates the agreement. More advanced versions can cover larger groups, inflict lasting injuries, (1) burn away magic rating/force or other attributes, or even (2) essence. While there are rumors of actual spell effects, or even of being visited by nightly spirits determined to wreak ghastly vengeance, these are presumably just rumors. It is possibly to escape from a forced oath without harm, but it is never easy. Willingly-given oaths are inescapable.

   Pacting allows the creation of a link with a willing free spirit that enhances the abilities of both parties. It must be taken once per spirit to be pacted with.

   Tolling is the ability to contact major magical beings using simply names. It can be upgraded to contact personifications of natural forces, but each such force to be contacted requires a separate upgrade.

   Transcending is the ability to summon a new spirit type. This may be taken repeatedly until the user can summon every known kind of spirit – and presumably as often as new types can be found.

Federation-Apocalypse Log 43: Vanity

   Kelseru Ana’Nasu was intrigued… This Ailill Keras’an’Darkell fellow was something a little different. Admittedly, she hadn’t been in the Dragonworlds for long – but most of the young men of his age were arrogant, demanding, and inclined to try and use their raw power to take what they wanted. Enough of them had simply attempted to challenge her to reveal that. “Social Graces” just did not seem to be a part of their worldview. This one was willing to send presents – and some quite impressive ones too! Where had he obtained a trio of young dragons to begin with? Did he actually control enough resources to be willing to give young dragons away on a whim? She’d checked their minds: they were well-trained, throughly bound to obedience, and didn’t even consider themselves ill-treated.

   Apparently Ailill was a sufficiently skillful artificier to have earned himself some major Imperial contracts and rewards, and was competent enough to have defended his gains since – and to keep most of the details quiet. Still, he apparently had some fairly extensive estates and controlled dozens of subordinates.

   Competence was such a rarity – and she would have been hard-pressed to control so many lesser dragons. Even if he wasn’t willing to share that technique, he might be a useful contact – and there was nothing wrong with being courted anyway.

   At the restaurant, Kevin spent some time bustling around, pestering (and enhancing) the cooks, making sure that the ingredients were the best possible, and ensuring that his gobs of money had been well spent. There was plenty of minor chaos, but no disasters. Perhaps fortunately, the ovens did not run on antimatter or explode or anything like that, despite some rumors and suggestions.

   So it was a lot of trouble to go to over a bit of lust / dominance / territoriality. It wasn’t like he had a resource shortage or something.

   The greeting, escorting her to the table while an assistant escorted her attendants to a table for humans, giving her with a trio of young reds bearing gifts as personal attendants (and giving each of her attendants one as well), all went well. She’d brought a bottle of fine wine, but hadn’t been nearly so extravagant.

   Kevin pointed out that excess income was no fun at all unless you spent it.

   She agreed with that: so many loved to sit on wealth in the dragonworlds, so few understood the pleasures of a luxurious lifestyle.

   The conversation drifted, touching on other entertainments, projects and enchantments, ensuring that the empire remained stable so that wealth could be properly enjoyed, importing items of interest, collecting lore and history, and the interesting rarities that occasionally came up on the market. She seemed pleased that he had plans beyond the moment and climbing up the status ladder. So few were truly prepared for what they found, it was something of a pity really.

   Meanwhile, her assistants were keeping a close, if discrete, eye on the situation. They were doing magical scans of the area and the food going by while engaged in small talk and trading stories with each other. Of course, for good or ill, there was nothing to detect: no traps, no barriers other than privacy stuff on the restaurant in general, and the food was simply very good food.

   From what Kevin could see – and he had quite a lot of passive detections running – her companions all had both magical and psionic enhancements. One was some sort of mage, most likely a prepared spell user. The second was a swirling mass of energies, with a link to the positive energy plane and maybe to another plane as a sink; he fed off the power flow and regulated it, although the links might or might not be an inerent part of him. The third had runes all over him, but apparently hadn’t made them. He was well shielded and flowing with power though; most likely either a fighter or a support type. All three were fairly powerful, although none were as powerful as their mistress. It looked like they had strong possibilities for continued growth though. They seemed to be mercenaries, and had quite a lot of power – but not as much as Kevin had locally.

   As for the attitudes of the dragoness – She didn’t like people who took her lightly, or confused her with a material thing to be won. She thought that people who overreached themselves grasping for things they did not have or understand deserved what they got. She believed in merit over other qualifications and liked to be in charge – but was not obsessed with power, although she enjoyed the benefits and perks that come with it. She believed that one should use power responsibly, since otherwise you might be disposed by the masses. You should treat those under you with fairness, treat those above you with respect, and eliminate or convert rivals as efficiently as possible. She probably wasn’t really a red dragon – a local form as a gem dragon seemed more likely – and she wasn’t originally from the Dragonworlds. She appeared to be sizing him up at the same time – leaning towards seeing him as a possible ally, but prepared to face a rival. She didn’t seem to be quite happy with the currently established order.

   She was mildly impressed simply with the sheer number of dragons on the serving staff – although she wondered why there were so many metallics (and was informed that it was mostly because they were more decorative, smarter on the average, and made better servants), but was mostly interested in something called the “Conway Contract”; Conway was a relatively powerful mage in the Empire who had been fishing around for someone to provide him with advanced technological equipment and technicians to pursue some project. Many of the big companies in the empire had been lining up to supply more or less off-the-shelf equipment and technicians. She had been thinking that she and Kevin might be able to procure better items and make their own bid. She had the contact, and suspected that Kevin might be able to procure some unusual stuff.

   Well, he could usually find anything he needed – and the reward was well worthwhile. Mr Conway seemed to be throwing quite a lot of money around.

   She also wanted to find out a bit about his companions. They appeared to be quite well suited to their tasks, both mentally and physically – and loyalty like that was hard to come by.

   Kevin provided some vague explanations and decided to move things up a notch. Unless someone admitted SOMETHING, they were never going to get anywhere. Revealing that he knew she wasn’t originally from the Dragon Empire wouldn’t give much away: he could use his work with gates as an explanation.

   She was willing enough to admit that: she found many of the comforts of the Empire pleasant, although the social system could use a bit of work. It was easier to counter human technology in the Empire than in her original magical-cyberpunk world. Antiaircraft missiles made life difficult. A couple of her companions were also from there, although they had picked up the odd ability here and there. The third was from a rather strange world of disgusting personal power. Thankfully while he retained some of it, he was limited in terms of just how much power he could channel in most other places.

   Sounded like she was out of one of the gaming universes; it had recently undergone some sort of phase transition wherein magic returned, had a semi-psychic magical style targeted against the will, early cyberpunk-level technology, plentiful weaponry and personal conflicts. She had heard of places with even more powerful technology, but had not visited them – and preferred not to. There needed to be a certain level of respect to being a dragon. Sadly, her ability to come and go as she pleased was rather limited as well. Mr Conway’s contract, should we be able to acquire it, will certainly prove lucrative, and would help cement a further step up the ladder.

   Mr Conway needed high level computers (and had some rather detailed specifics on base operating principles), rare radioisotopes, chemical processing equipment, and more. All of that would be fairly easy – although there was the “what he’s going to do with them” problem. Still, if he could travel freely, he could get his own stuff – and if he couldn’t, any resulting problems were likely to be contained anyway. Oh well, why not?

   With all of her business finally out of the way, Kevin focused on being as charming, fascinating, and attractive as possible – inadvertently channeling the vast energies of an adolescent demigod into the effort. Combined with a bit of accidental (and probably unduplicatable) reality manipulation, that went completely out of control.

   Kevin was pleased with the results – he hadn’t seriously expected to fascinate her to the point where she would willingly allow him to claim and bind her – but that was a contract of sorts: she got wealth, luxury, servants, some local authority, his backing, pleasure, magic and offspring (and plenty of education, equipment, and opportunities for them) – while he got her, a useful contact and broker in the Dragonworlds, and some insights into the violence memes (or at least some clues for where more information could be found in the manifold). She still had a dozen psionically-bonded young dragons of her own, plus the six he’d given her. They were currently acting as her business representatives on the major trading worlds.

   Kevin hired the three bodyguards. It was hard to find competent independent personnel!

   Back on Battling Business World, Marty was talking with Limey and seeing how well he could fight – which wasn’t too bad for a child-level sentient notebook computer. Admittedly, it was mainly cyber-attacks and spitting out spells; his hand-to-hand just wasn’t very good yet.

   Perhaps he could get him to cut back on the Polymorph spell a bit though; it was kind of weird for Battling Business World.

“But hey, it’s a work day! You get to meet the other office devices, and Lou the vending machine’s a real sweetie!”

   Marty packed up Limey and headed for work. He took the road rage lane since Limey had liked it the last time.

   At the office (and several intense police chases) later, things were a mess, two entire floors had been destroyed in interdepartmental fighting. Things were exploding left and right, there were corpses everywhere, and Mr. Leland was calmly sitting at his desk, despite the fact that one side of it was on fire. Marty put it out.

“Oh great. Have HR and Accounting gotten into an argument again?”

“Procurement and Accounting this time.”

“What the hell happened? Did they refuse to give the accountants their Ticonderogas?”

“Well, it all started with the upgrades for the new Accounting Database. Accounting gave IT the specs, and IT came up with a solution for 10 million. They then sent the deal to Procurement to approve. Procurement threw the spec out, started bidding with the wrong companies at 20 million, got a Microsoft web server for 15 million, and claimed a 5 million dollar cost savings. Accounting then swore a blood oath to slay Procurement and take their power and stuff while leaving the responsibilities with Procurement. Procurement then launched a preemptive strike on Accounting. I’m not sure who won.”

   Marty knew how accountants were. If Procurement thought that they’d won, there were deluded; the accountants were hiding in the shadows with their briefcases and stamps, waiting to strike when Procurement wasn’t looking.

“I’ll check. Is Sadie ok? Do you need me to find her?”

“Sadie is just fine, at least as of ten minutes ago. She was running around finishing off Procurement guys.”

“Oh good. I’ll go mop things up then.”

   Down in the cubicle warzone it was a mess: paperwork flying everywhere, charred remnants of who-knows-what lying about, the smell of burning office equipment. The elevators were jammed with devices that were madly trying to escape before the sprinkler system activated. It was worse than when Chase Manhattan raided.

   The elevators had been working until one of them got overloaded with several copiers and fell, the others were being reluctant to open up now.

“Hmm . . . hey, Limey, want to get in good with your coworkers? Then listen up. They’re all over there, trying to get out before the sprinklers give them a shower. I’d like you to evacuate them so they don’t lose a day’s pay. Make sure we don’t have too many copiers on the remaining elevators, since that tends to weigh them down.”

   With Limey organizing the escape of the sentient office equipment, Marty headed towards the fighting. It looked like the Accounting foyer was pretty devastated, but the defenses appeared to have held. Accounting had pushed down the hall, and was deep in Procurement territory. They appeared to be making a run for Gelman – the Procurement manager – and a total conquest of the department. Marty hated accountants. They’d probably make Gelman do accounts receivable before they killed him with their pencils! He had to save him!

   Wait, actually that sounded like fun. Now he was torn on what to do.

   Whether fortunately or unfortunately, the accountants spotted him. Fortunately, they were quite willing to try and make an alliance of convenience even though they know Marty didn’t like them much.

   They were even going to make Gelman do the books RIGHT; they had mathematicians from the University to double check his work and were thinking of having him use 8 dimensional calculus to work on the budget for this month.

“Okay, I’ll help you if you let me buy Limey his own desk and Gelman doesn’t know a DAMN thing about me helping out.”

“A desk for the desktop? Shouldn’t be an issue. Now Gelman not knowing is as much your problem as ours. We won’t mention it, but you are responsible for you being unseen”

“Of course.”

   Marty smiled. Since he was dealing with accountants it was a bit forced, but still . . .

   The Accountants had sealed off both hallways, thus cutting off reinforcements, and were making a big push to get through the Supervisor offices. Unfortunately, Gelman’s Administrative Assistant had waded into battle and was a whirlwind of destruction, using a massive table as a melee weapon and flattening accountants right and left. That reminded Marty of his ex-wife…

   He slipped up on her and pulled off a devastating first strike. Unfortunately, she got up again and made it a tough battle anyway; wielding the table as a shield and a copier as a weapon.

“You damn whippersnappers think you can just waltz right in here and see the Manager without an appointment?”

“Ow . . . why did you hit me with the STOVE, Abigail?”

   Marty managed to disarm her, sending the copier out a window and setting off at least three car alarms below, and switched to ranged attacks. Still, there were accountants to spare to help out: apparently they’d hired a few tems from the Kelly Mayhem.

   She went down eventually – taking the backbone of the resistance with her, although leaving the fallen copier wreaking mayhem on the street below.

   The final push into the Manager’s office was underway. There was plenty of cover available, even if half of it was on fire.

   Marty had a plane: he’d have the accountants “capture” him and force him to do the books. He’d scream for help and offer Gelman a shiny new set of battle golf clubs for getting him out of it. The girls would cover most of the accountants with invisibility. Then, when they had Gelman in the trap, the girls would cancel the invisibility, he’d run, make a loop around the cover, and garrote Gelman into unconsciousness. Then the accountants could have their way with him… MWA HA HA!

   And he’d still give him the clubs, too!

   The accountants gave him some very funny looks about “invisibility” of course, but went along with it. To make it convincing, they would bring in one of the mathematicians to play along.

“Oh hey, guys. What’s going on here? Fighting with Procurement? What do you think you’re doing?”

“You are either with us or against us!”

“Oh, come on! I just got back from my business trip! I want to say hi to Gelman! Can’t you let me by?”

“Never! Either join us or fall with them!”

“OH SHIT! AIEEEE!”

“Now we will force you to do the books and teach you to do them properly!”.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I’M NOT AN ACCOUNTANT! SOMEBODY HELP ME! GELMAAAAANNNNNN!!!”

   Watching Gelman learn accounting with actual numbers, as opposed to imaginary ones, was most amusing.

   Meanwhile, Limey had gotten the evacuation finished, albeit with a liberal use of polymorph to turn larger items into smaller ones. Turning them back was a bit awkward – Limey couldn’t remember what they had been, since he’d overwritten the file – but simply asking them worked well enough.

   Mr Leland was pleased to have all that sorted out for the moment. The Balrog was working out well too: he’d been sent to an animation studio a bit earlier; the cartoonists had been refusing to do a LIVE cartoon show – but he’d straightened them out.

   Marty finished up his workday, informed Mr Leland that he was heading back out – and took the girls out to dinner before heading back for the Rosary.

   Back in Kadia, the purchasing effort – supported by the House of Roses – had obtained ownership of nearly 3% of the property-class NeoDog population (of whom roughly 20% were young enough to be potential recruits, since established companions and such weren’t for sale. Quite a lot of the free population was applying for jobs as well. The meme-treatments were underway as a pilot project, since there were plenty of NeoDogs to staff things now.

   It had been two months since Kevin had checked his Thrall-recruiting efforts: there were quite a few possibles; The recruiters in Baelaria had turned up 22 prospects, the New Imperium had yielded 16, the Old Empire had yielded 8 (OK, they mostly wanted to become “Jedi” or “Sith”, but the abilities of a Thrall covered both), Faerun had turned up – 3 street kids from Waterdeep and 4 young Dark Elves (who say it as a chance to get ahead – and away from rivals), 3 from the English Fantasy Zone, 14 from the Linear Developments, 3 from the Colonial Era, and 6 from locations scattered around the Manifold, for a total of 79. Things were picking up.

   The slave-buyers had turned up quite a few ensouled slaves as well – although the percentage of slaves (at least of those who’d ever had any other future to look forward to) who took the offer of thralldom was very low compared to the percentage of selected volunteers who decided to go for it. The Old Empire had yielded 38, Thay 11 – although there were 8 captured surface-dwellers, 2 rebellious young dark elves, and 58 half-drow from the Underdark – 6 kids from the Goblin Markets, 22 from the Linear Developments, 18 from the Roman Imperium, 3 from the Dragonworlds, 5 stray kids from Faerie, and 6 from Angus Kirkwell. That made 177 – and, at least judging from prior experience, most of the half-drow would go for the deal.

   The situation was more complicated in a few places, so there were no reports yet. The Potterverse was still settling down, the House of Roses had been recruiting for two months, but wouldn’t want to discuss that in an unsecured location. The Core Military might or might not be recruiting – but apparently wanted a personal discussion again. Orman Valif was probably up to something, but there was no telling what with him – and he did have 53 Thralls currently operating in core, and showing off and passive recruiting was a part of their job. He’d just have to see how many turned up to hear the pitch.

Advanced Metamagic: Astral Access

   Here we have some of the advanced metamagical skills for Astral Access in Shadowrun. As usual, the first selection represents new abilities, while the second list represents advanced applications of the basic techniques listed previously. For conveniences sake, the new abilites have some of the advanced possibilities listed along with the basic effect.

Astral Access:

   Adjustment allows you to subtract your initiate grade from the effective background count. Advanced versions can allow the user to learn to maintain an internal reserve of magic for use in low-magic conditions, to extend the benefits of his or her ability to adjust to others, or allow the user to learn to tap into the natural aspect of the background count (such as for destructive or “holy” magic).

   Armory allows the user to create functional armor, weapons, and other accouterments for his or her astral form. In general, you can spend (Willpower) points on this: armor acts as armor (rated at points spent) and weapons do (+Points)M damage or (+Points-4)S damage. Double the cost if you want hardened armor and/or ranged weapons. The advanced forms (1) provide (+6) additional points, (2) provide automatic hardening, and (3) provide automatic range.

   Gestalt Operations allow the user to merge his magic with that of another character. Advanced versions allow additional characters to join in, at one per advance.

   Immersion allows a dual-natured creature from a species which is not normally dual-natured to temporarily suppress that condition. Obviously enough, a distinct rarity. Advanced forms increase the (initially brief) period that the effect can be sustained.

   Patronage allows the user to acquire a totem, idol, or similar sponsor – or to double up on the benefits of one he or she already has. Unfortunately, while the benefits of such sponsorship do stack, the penalties stack as well. Patronage may be taken more than once, but no individual sponsor may be selected more than twice – and combining them may present problems.

   Spellfighting allows the user to “intercept” (technically draw the energies to himself or herself ) spells and engage them in astral combat if he or she is either dual-natured or astrally projecting at the time. Spells are normally treated as generic spirits at half their force for this purpose. Further improvements can extend the radius in which spells can be diverted to the user, allow the user to choose whether to fight or accept such spells, and allow the user to attack sustained spells which have already taken effect on another target.

   *Apparently, as the energy level of astral space has increased, the more subtle energies of spells have faded in comparison – to the point where they no longer seem to have “solid” forms. The same phenomena is responsible for early reports of the astral auras of any living thing being impenetrably dense, and for the fact that the earth was impenetrable on the astral level only a few years ago, but can be slowly “pushed” through now. As the magical density of such astral reflections falls in comparison with the increasing energy density of astral space, the denser fields of active magical beings have taken precedence. Weaker fields are, however, less vulnerable to the drain of mana voids, lending some credence to early reports of astral travel to alien worlds: that may have been possible at the time, at least presuming that there is some interstellar equivalent to high-speed astral movement.

   Spirit Oath allows the user to establish astral links with other sapient minds, whether magical or mundane. This make it easy to establish astral contacts and grants a limited awareness of the condition of those other minds. Upgrades include (1) the ability to use the Endowment matamagic over such links, (2) the ability to share sensory information and communicate over such links, (3) the ability create secondary links, between others, and (4) the ability to create remotely-operated surrogate astral forms for those you’re linked to, allowing them to “ride along” and help out in astral trips and quests.

   Ward Mastery allows the user to create advanced forms of Wards: including (1) wards that can be turned on and off, (2) wards anchored on living creatures and capable of changing shape to accommodate their movements, (3) wards which block or pass only particular categories of creatures, spirits, and effects (the creator may specify up to [Int] such criteria – such as “Hellhounds may pass, Illusions may pass, and anyone belonging to my astral contact group may pass” (making three conditions), and (1) linked wards which the creator can either reinforce or cast spells through when they are disturbed or attacked.

   *According to later information on Wards, Wards must be anchored to a physical object, and will collapse if that object is moved more than a few centimeters from its location at the time of the warding ritual. This raises certain problems, such as the fact that all motion is relative, that the earth moves, that the tidal bulge of the earth’s crust moves everything on the surface more than that up and down twice a day, and so on. Worse, the official FAQ for the fourth edition notes that you can ward – say – a shipping container by anchoring the ward to its walls and move it without collapsing the ward. Ergo, wards can be mobile if you anchor them on a movable object, define the boundaries in relationship to that object or to objects that move with it rather than in relationship to other objects in the area, and then move the anchoring object. Whether or not the bounds of such a ward must correspond to the physical bounds of the anchoring object is not defined, although it seems reasonable. Ergo, wards can be applied to rigid objects (including weapons) and moved about.

Advanced Astral Access Abilities:

   Astral Gate has advanced forms allowing the user to (1) create shallows and overlays, (2) to create or seal astral rifts, (3) create gates, (4) steer gates, and (5) to create metaplanar shortcuts – although that sort of thing gets karma-intensive.

   Awareness can be extended to provide details on the items sensed, as well as to detect the presence of various types of spirits, of metaplanar transfers, of major magical activities, and of disturbances in the local level of magic.

   Dreamgate has advanced disciplines allowing the user to direct and manipulate dreams, to control the landscape within them, to use them for advanced psychotherapy, to drain people’s energies through their dreams, to attempt to drive people mad, to enter the dream of anyone the user has an astral link to, and to unleash spirit-constructs (similar to Allied Spirits) from the fevered depths of his or her own imagination. However, whether fortunately or unfortunately, most of these possibilities remain relatively unexplored. Few high level initiates bother investigating dreams when there are far more generally useful spells and powers to take and when many of the effects can be mimicked by spells and lesser techniques anyway.

   Freedom normally only takes effect at the moment of death, and allows the user to continue to drop by and advise people later on; this is, however, only suitable for brief visits: visiting the earthly plane after death is a lot like visiting the metaplanes while physically alive. Advanced versions of this ability are difficult to develop while still burdened with a physical body, but allow the user to exert additional personal abilities, to act as a patron spirit, and to establish anchorages which allow the user to manifest easily in particular locations.

   Loremaster has advanced versions allowing you to gain karma somewhat faster, to accept augmented karma donations from others, and to gain karma from having large numbers of followers. Unfortunately, this is subject to a backpressure effect: the more Karma you have focused into yourself – whether in the form of initiations, enhanced attributes, boosted skills, or anything else – the more difficult it is to gain more. At very high levels it will actually start to leak away – causing the user to forget infrequently used skills, to become “rusty” with rarely-used powers, and to suffer other power-losses. Eventually you’ll find yourself on a treadmill – using every bit of karma you can scrape together simply to maintain your existing powers. This may be a good thing: it means that even the oldest and most powerful spirits and dragons have limits.

   Manifestation has advanced forms allowing the user to improve his or her manifested form, to take alternate manifested forms, and reducing the feedback-shock of having a manifested form disrupted.

   Masking has advanced forms allowing the user to (1), cover up the existence of personal Foci and Spells, to (2) extend masking to up to (Magic Rating) others in the immediate vicinity, and (3) to conceal anything linked to him or herself, such as wards or the usability of material links. Users may also learn to (1) vary their Signatures at will, (2) to disrupt any magical links connected to their aura, of (1) to augment their ability to sneak in astral space.

   Metaphysics can be upgraded to provide even faster astral movement, a quicker ability to move through the earth, or to allow the user to emulate particular spirit types.

   Metaplane Access has advanced forms allowing the user to penetrate ever-deeper layers of the metaplanes, to establish links to transfer magical energies to and from the metaplanes he or she can reach, to shape the astral environment, to visit or remain on the metaplanes without necessarily being involved in an astral quest, and to establish pocket-realms of their own.

   Possessing can be upgraded to allow for longer-term possession, to allow for minor enhancements to the creature possessed, and – at least in legend – to allow the user to abandon his or her own body and move in on another creatures, permanently usurping their form.

   Psychometry has advanced forms which allow the user to deduce spell and enchantment formulas from the traces left by the use of spells, to determine the age and provenance of objects by touch, to trace the history of magical effects in a location, to examine what impact magic has had on a target’s consciousness and life, to determine what psychic constructs (including spells) a target has, to recover memories from corpses, to relive echoes of the past, and – at least in legend – to recall specters of the great events of history or to establish links to departed spirits.

   Sheltering allows the user to “host” an astral form so that it can regain essence, essentially sharing the user’s life with said spirit. Advanced forms allow the user to carry spirits to and from the metaplanes, to tap into such spirits abilities, to forcibly bond unwilling spirits (there are rumors of blood mages using this to bond the spirits of sacrifices to them, but this is almost certainly a route to insanity), and to transfer such a bond to a vacant body.

Shadowrun: Advanced Metamagic

   Hm. I put up 103 Initiate Powers, and still people want more, and more details on advanced powers. Well, here’s the first set. This time around I’ve simply listed some of the advanced effects with the new powers. It’s simpler to keep track of that way.

General Initiate Abilities:

   Augmentation increases the characters effective level of initiation with respect to a selected initiate ability by +2. This may be taken repeatedly, but may not more than double the user’s effective level of initiation with regard to an ability.

   Circuiting allows a sustained effect to become temporarily self-sustaining, giving it a duration of (Magic Rating) hours per success devoted to this purpose on the effect-generation test. Circuiting must be applied to a particular magical skill when purchased, if applied to Enchantment it allows a test to set things up to proceed unsupervised, or to allow a focus to remain active while separated from its owner. Sadly, circuited spells are easy to dispel: all you have to deal with are the successes invested in the circuit, not the entire spell.

   Intuition reduces the target numbers for the theoretical design aspects of magic – such as spell, ally, focus, and other forms of formula design, as well as the target number for any ritual casting which takes at least four hours – by two. This may be taken repeatedly, but will never reduce such target numbers below two or by more than (the user’s Intelligence score).

   Karmic Ritual allows a specific magical operation that normally costs Karma but can be done quickly (such as Quickening, Faceting, or Oathbinding) to be carried out as a ritual, substituting 1000 NY worth of ritual ingredients for each karma point beyond the first. Unfortunately, at least one karma point is still required.

   Piercing allows the user to more easily penetrate Metamagical defenses, such as masking and shielding. Any target number penalties you are subjected to when rolling against such defenses are reduced by 4, although this will not provide a bonus.

   Sortilege: You gain an initiate dice pool, equal to one-half your initiate level +2 dice. It can be applied to any magic-related test, but is subject to the usual dice pool limitations. Advanced forms add additional dice, provide the ability to let other people use your pool, or allow you to roll against anyone making such a magic-related test nearby.

   Magic Protection reduces your effective magic rating by 2 when checking for magic loss. Advanced versions can either continue reducing the effective score (even a magic-loss check of “2” cannot cause magic loss if the effective value is already 0) or allow the user to temporarily shut off his or her magic (it requires at least four hours to reactivate it). Additional improvements can reduce this minimal time, (2) allow the user to purge himself of spiritual parasites by shutting off their astral access as well, or (3) be used to temporarily suppress the force of any spirit the user touches.

   Technomancy is very simple: it reduces the target numbers for affecting high-tech objects, items, and substances with magic. At first level it reduces the target number for high-tech and highly-processed targets to 6, but increases the target number for affecting natural objects to 4. At level two, all effects targeting inanimate objects have a target number of 5. At levels beyond that, this technique provides +2 bonus dice per level for spells targeting objects.

Advanced General Abilities:

   Amplification can be upgraded to allow either greater boosts OR to allow extreme, but very short-lived boosts.

   Astral Awareness can be upgraded to increase the range, the sensitivity, or the amount of detail revealed.

   Astral Sight is actually the first step in acquiring the full Astral Access ability. The next step is to be able astrally project in the immediate vicinity of your body for a minute or two, and so on. Unusually, Astral Access is relatively easy to attain: you only need six levels of this ability in total.

   Attunement can be simply repeated, but it can also be aspected; enhancements to magic that can only be used in particular locations, at particular times, or by fulfilling other restrictive conditions provide +2 points worth of magic. Unfortunately, magic points cannot be restricted by purpose, by type of spell, or by the magic skill involved; how it’s used is irrelevant to how more power can be evoked.

   Centering actually has two variants: it can either be used to allow focusing on a mundane skill to counteract target number penalties or to allow a mundane skill to be used as a complimentary skill for magical activities. In either case, advanced techniques allow centering to be applied to additional skill groups.

   Divination can be improved to gather additional information (usually allowing the use of additional senses over the astral link), to reduce the difficulty of locating a particular target in the first place, to allow the user to scry for unknown but involved factors, and to allow improved transtemporal perceptions. Unfortunately, while upgrades improve basic divinations limited attempts at such things, even a string of upgrades is not enough to make any of them – much less transtemporal effects – entirely reliable.

   Endowment can be enhanced to allow magic to be channeled through multiple creatures, at longer ranges, through nonsentient creatures, or to place the loaned under the control of the recipient.

   Grounding can be taken over and over again to reduce the effects of handling excess energy, but – unfortunately – becomes less effective each time.

   Lore can be improved to allow the user to explore mythic realms, and to translate various problems into metaphorical terms in a fashion similar to Dreamquesting primitive magical skill.

   Metamorphosis is – by it’s very nature – perhaps the most general initiate ability. Here are some of the more popular paths, but there are many others:

Path of the Artificer:

  • Facilitation: Halves the base time required for the use of Build/Repair and Technical skills. The conditions are always considered good and the available tools work as if one level better (None = Kit, Kit = Shop, Shop = Facility, and Facility = -2 on target numbers).
  • Craftsman: Build/Repair and Technical skills now require only one-fourth the base time to use. Having no tools is equivalent to working in a shop, a shop or better provides a -2 on all target numbers, and complimentary skill dice are rolled at 1-to-1 rather than halved.
  • Artificer: Build/Repair and Technical skills now require only 1/8’th the base time to use, having no tools is equivalent to working in a facility, a kit or better provides a -2 to target numbers, and the user is always considered to have common components to hand.
  • Mastercrafter. Build/Repair and Technical skills now require only 1/16’th the base time to use and are always at a -2 to target numbers. The user will only needs the rarest or most unusual components. Normal gear may be assembled without a base cost (the system doesn’t specify any anyway).
  • Engineering. Build/Repair and Technical skills now require only 1/32’nd the base time to use. The user now needs only basic raw materials – iron, copper, silicon, etc – to work with.
  • On the Factory Floor. Build/Repair and Technical skills now require only 1/64’th the base time to use, and are always at a -4 to target numbers. The user may multiply the work output by the number of assistants employed up to a maximum of (Magic x Charisma).
  • Automation. Multiplies the amount of work you can get done when working in a Shop or Facility by (Int + 2) times.

   Well, if you really want to devote seven initiate powers, and plenty of skill points, to building your own gear, this is the path for you. Most actual mages, of course, have other things to do with their Karma – but dabblers and people with minor talents may well find this path quite useful.

Path of Ascension:

   This is simply the process of gaining access to a new magical skill or upgrading an old one. Unfortunately, this usually requires at least nine levels to grant full access to another magical skill: it is usually more efficient to simply upgrade the characters base magical priority.

Path of Mechanosynthesis:

  • Cyberbond: Any cyberware the user has installed becomes even more a part of their body. It “heals” naturally or with magic and can be improved with Karma. Upgrading costs a base of 1/2/3 to upgrade from Basic to Alpha/Alpha to Beta/Beta to Delta times 1/2/3 for Minor/Major/Primary systems. Increasing its level costs 1x the grade being purchased, just like attributes do – but the essence cost must be paid as well.
  • Biointegration: Any cyberware installed in the user becomes almost undetectable (+4 to sensor target numbers) and the user no longer takes charisma or social interaction penalties for being heavily cybered.
  • Absorption: The user can install cyberware without fuss, recovery time, surgical trauma, or risk of magic loss (other than that inherent in essence loss), or surgical complications. All he has to do is buy the hardware, touch it, and will it’s installation. He or she can uninstall items similarly, although this does not restore lost essence. This eliminates surgical costs, reducing the cost of most cyberware by one-third. Since this also constitutes near-perfect “surgery”, the user also gets 20% off the base essence cost.
  • Interface: The user may connect his own systems to other systems, simply by touching them – and may attempt to control such systems with his or her own skills.
  • Synthesis: The user’s cyberware becomes perfectly integrated with his or her body, reducing it’s essence costs to 60% of normal. Lost essence is not regained, but additional cyberware can be added in the “open slots”.
  • Bio-organics: The user’s cyberware becomes mostly organic, attempts to detect it mechanically are now at +8 to their target numbers.
  • Cellular Integration: The user’s cyberware becomes a nearly-natural part of his or her body, reducing it’s essence costs to 50% of normal. Lost essence is not regained, but additional cyberware can be added in the “open slots”.

Path of Spirit Transformation:

   When you take the first step on this path, your Base Force becomes (Magic/2)-1, you gain 1 point of Spirit Energy, and you become a dual being. You also lose most of your ability to gain Karma, reducing your base award to one point per session and capping any bonuses at +1 point per session. To keep things simple, while in the process of metamorphosis, the characters magic rating and attributes are fixed.

   Each base attribute you convert – and each one is a separate step, although they may be taken in any desired order – has a new base value equal to your Base Force in astral space. On the material realm a modifier of (Old Base Attribute – Base Force)/2 (rounded down) applies. Thus if your Strength is 5 (9 due to cyberware) and your Base Force is 3 when you convert your Strength, your new Strength on the Physical Realm is 3 (Your Force) +1 (Your spirit Energy) +1 (your attribute modifier of 5 [old base] – 3 [base force] /2) = 5.

When you convert your:

  • Body: Your Essence now equals your Base Force. You gain Immunity to Normal Weapons, do not require air or nourishment, and are immune to age, pathogens, and toxins. All cyberware ceases to work.
  • Charisma: You may no longer use the Conjuration skill if you possessed it but gain a random spirit power.
  • Intelligence: All mind-enhancing cyberware ceases to work, including DNI-controlled devices. You no longer need spell formula to learn spells, although you must spend the usual time and effort.
  • Quickness: +10 to Physical Initiative. All reaction or initiative-enhancing cyberware ceases to work. Gain a random spirit power.
  • Strength: All strength-enhancing cyberware ceases to work, but you gain a random spirit power.
  • Willpower: You become Immune to Drain.
  • Any Three: You no longer gain karma normally, but may gain up to one point per session from bonuses. You also gain a new True Name, which can be used like any other free spirits true name – although you cannot be summoned using it until your body becomes purely astral.
  • All Six: You are now a purely astral entity, although you may materialize a physical form. You gain a random spirit power and can be disrupted, but not normally slain.

   Unification allows a group to more efficiently combine spellcasting, whether through simple ritual magic or by either chaining or merging spells. Further improvements along this line include expanding the size of ritual groups even further, making it easier to establish and maintain astral contact groups, and the ability to link mundanes into magical groups (to both grant and provide minor benefits).

L5R Log Updates

   The L5R log hasn’t been updated in far too long, and was a few weeks behind even then, so the episodes are likely to run into each other. That also means that this update will be split into multiple sections, although – for orientation purposes – I’ll list all the headings here.

   L5R Sessions 82-93: The Deva’s Tale, Within the Catacombs. The Crypt of the Rakasha, Secrets of the Darkness, The Bang of Gandits, The Volcano of the Ancestors, The Circles of the Damned, The Bargain Basement of Traps, The Gardens of Venom, Lords of Darkness, Final Visits, The Shinjo Files.

   With Michio, Kochige and Okari busily re-assembling centuries-old records, Ninsei and Najite went out to see a bit of the country – and wound up encountering a small group of Asuras. It was an oddly familiar experience. Despite being known as “Demon Gods” they seemed an awful lot like… just another party of arrogant, obnoxious, grossly-high-powered adventurers. Impatient and annoyed with all the normal people around them. Capable of vast destruction, even by accident or when confronted with another attack, and brushing off normal niceties in favor of the quick and easy application of raw power.

   Well, how many times had THEY virtually destroyed Toshi Ranbo? Maybe “Human beings with more power than is at all reasonable and lots of frustrations to work through” would probably be a better translation than “Demon Gods”. It was enough to make them wonder how the Peasants around Toshi Ranbo thought about them.

   Still, despite some initial tensions, the little group of Asuras was more than willing to help them go Rakasha hunting; they didn’t like the Rakasha either – and were VERY interested in the Empire. Lots of unused territory, very little competition on their power level, the local power structure collapsing in battle with assorted monsters… There were distinct POSSIBILITIES there.

   Oh by the Kami: after Fu Leng were they going to have to deal with random adventurers from the Ivory Kingdoms as well as the Yodatai, the Yobanjin, AND the Naga?

   Back at the Temple, Michio and Kochige were at an impasse. After all these centuries there simply wasn’t enough information left; no matter how good they were at deduction and ferreting out details. There were six major possibilities for where the grave of the Designer might be, and all of them had problems of one sort or another.

   The Asuras weren’t much help there. If a Rakasha survived for long, it invariably tried to wipe out all traces of it’s grave. It couldn’t allow it to be disturbed, since it was the central focus that allowed it to grow in power and return after being dissipated, but it could wrap it in defenses and eliminate all records of its location.

   OK, so a Rakasha was born from the residual evil of a powerful departed soul. Without a proper burial ceremony and tending rituals, the site could become a focus for lesser evil residues, which would give rise to a Rakasha. How could residual evil hold itself together and become a power? And why did they all wield such powerful disciplines?

   Wait: the Meditations of Unity. Designed to focus the energies of the spirit.

   Everything had its downside didn’t it?

   But that meant that somewhere there was a reincarnated soul – probably an Asura or Deva – who had some additional clues buried in his or her memory. Who would know how he or she had died twelve hundred years ago.

   Ninsei began to use the Recondite Weave to find an ally who possessed that knowledge. It took quite a lot of fishing – but eventually he found an elderly Deva and set up the communications link. Centuries ago, and many incarnations back, Vikerl had been an Asura and had fought the Designer many times, since he shared a school of magic with it. That wasn’t that uncommon, at the time – although the outrages of the Designer had given Technics a bad reputation for many centuries after its final defeat – even if it was rare these days.

   He had thought that the Designer had been destroyed at last however.

   It didn’t quite seem to fit though. The Designer had been so powerful when it first appeared – and that didn’t seem to be the information they needed. Still, the Recondite Weave guaranteed that Vikerl had the information they needed somewhere.

   They started going through Vikerl’s list of incarnations – and found a gap. Once he had not reincarnated for several centuries. Just before that, he had been a young Asura, a prince, and his father’s country had been overrun. He had hidden deep in the secret chambers and passages beneath the palace, and had entered a stasis-trance, focusing his concentration and meditations on his determination to survive, return, and wreak bloody vengeance upon the usurpers and their descendants.

   Not very admirable, but he’d been a very angry, frustrated, child at the time. He’d always assumed that the multi-century gap in his incarnations had been devoted to calming down while meditating between lives.

   The Designer had appeared about 1200 years ago – already vastly powerful – and had slaughtered tens of thousands across centuries in blood and torment. He had devastated an entire kingdom, wiped out many noble lines, and carried his campaigns of slaughter into the neighboring realms.

   How long could you survive in a stasis-trance? If the conditions for re-awakening were never fulfilled?

   Until, perhaps, the ceiling of a long-forgotten chamber collapsed or the soul abandoned the dust-covered body at last? Six hundred years perhaps?

   Six hundred years of meditation, focused on thoughts of blood and revenge. Evil piled upon evil, focused and bound into form by the Meditations of Unity.

   It wasn’t often you met a pleasant, kindly, grandfatherly, and helpful old man who – as an angry child – had spawned an evil on the scale of Fu Leng without even knowing it. The Meditations of Unity just might be the most dangerous techniques ever developed – if only because there was, even in theory, no way to wipe them out.

   So: make the assumption that the young Prince’s body had never been found. His untended grave must still lay beneath a palace or the ruins thereof.

   Well, at least palaces were a lot less common than graveyards.

   Michio and Kochige were a bit annoyed at that. Some of their carefully-complied research might still be useful, but that meant that ALL the clues pointing to graveyards had either been plants or coincidence. How many levels of misdirection HAD the Designer used to conceal his grave?

   So; Palaces. From 1800 years ago. Overrun by an army, in this general area – and fitting what Vikerl could remember plus the temple records, and what the local Asuras and Devas knew about the situation back then, and what they could gather from the local spirits.

   It took more days they could not spare – but eventually they had it down to three likely positions. Two palace sites that were still in use, albeit after being renovated and rebuilt many times, and one ruin that was buried under a thriving town.

   They checked the old ruins under the town first: none of the townsfolk were going to make any effort to stop a group of Asuras who wanted to poke around and make holes in the ground no matter how awkward they were being. There were traces of old evil, as well as ancient and well-buried graves – but no active focus of evil at the moment.

   Getting into the local Sultan’s palace was a bit more awkward. No one wanted to start a battle with them; a fight with that many Asuras, and apparently equivalent-foreigners, might destroy everything for miles around, even if the local Devas could stop them all.

   The Sultan granted an interview. Sadly, a few ill-judged remarks of Najites – blamed on a random guard – revealed that the Sultan took as dim a view of Lese Majeste as the Emperor did and got the unfortunate guard and (after some further remarks) his family, condemned to death. The Sultan, however, concluded that he had a group of treasure-hunters or something on his hands, and gave permission for them to poke around in the old basements and subsurface storage chambers provided that they (a) didn’t wreck the place or paid for repairing anything they did wreck, (b) gave him a share of any forgotten treasures they found, and (c) let the Devas who attended his court come along to keep an eye on things.

   Sufficient poking around revealed wine cellars, the torture chamber (where the torturer had finished up with the guard and was starting in on his children), wine cellars, storage rooms, drains, wells – and a network of very old, long-sealed off, catacombs deep beneath the palace. All warded so heavily that they were almost impossible to detect.

   While the others focused on breaking through into the catacombs, Najite headed back to visit the Torturer; the children needed to be killed if they couldn’t be saved, and he needed to know if such activities were standard procedure. That would tell him who else needed to be killed.

   The Torturer didn’t seem especially upset when he granted release to the whimpering remains of the two children, and didn’t even mind explaining. Such sentences were normal enough, and were usually simply left to his discretion. Hundreds of people – bandits, thieves, tax-evaders, traitors, and various other offenders (often with their families) – were sent to die at his hands every year.

   Najite promptly stuck a selection of sharply pointed items into the Torturer, and went off to see – and kill – the Sultan and his advisors.

   Behind him the Torturer dissolved into a puddle of darkness and poured down the well which normally awaited the blood and remains of his victims, carrying the children’s souls with him. Something was breaking past the wards of his personal outpost of hell, and would have to be dealt with. He had no more time for playing “corpse” – and the Sultan who had allowed him to be disturbed would be properly dealt with if he had read Najite correctly. Of course, there, in the heart of his catacombs, surrounded by the imprisoned and tortured spirits of his victims, filled with the evil he had encouraged and cultivated across the centuries, he was at the heart of his power. The clever fools who had uncovered his secret would die, and become a part of his power. He had not cultivated evil in the land, and harvested his crop amid the screams of the donors, for five long centuries to be defeated now!

   The battle was fought standing in pools of ancient, rotting, blood, engulfed supernatural darkness, surrounded by withered corpses, the psychic howling of entrapped and agonized spirits, and the stench of slow decay.

   It was a close thing in any case. Despite the protective powers of four Devas, the offensive might of five Asuras, and the assorted powers of the party, they came very very close to defeat – and only averted it through earthquake, a holocaust of purifying flame that fed on dark magic, sweeping tens of thousands of corpses into the streets of the nearby towns – where the Torturer had extended his access to allow him to plant seeds of evil en everyone nearby – recklessly blowing holes in reality, and similar stunts.

   Above, where Nijite had just finished killing off the Sultan and his advisors, and had made sure that the crime would remain a mystery, the palace began to crumble as it’s foundations were ripped from beneath it. Najite did manage to get most of the inhabitants moving towards the exits though – even if one girl actually seemed to see him accurately. With his techniques that really shouldn’t be possible. Oh well, if it ever mattered, he might look into it.

Eric Moore: Contacts

   Here we have some contacts and other important characters for Mr. Eric Moore, the engineer / Human Resources Representative / cybernetic killing machine.

Makio Yen, Mitsuhama “Special Recruiter”

  • A loyal and dedicated corporate climber, Makio-san found a niche in hiring special agents – shadowrunners – for whatever job Mitsuhama finds itself in need of. Although he’s not a monster, Makio isn’t particularly warm or friendly. He doesn’t really insist on much professionalism either. As long as it can’t be traced back to Mistuhama and is on someone else’s turf, he doesn’t care how the job gets done or what you look like doing it. If it’s on Mitsuhama turf, he’ll work closely with security on a plan and insist on close adherence to it. The bright side is that he offers better terms than most Mr. Johnsons, often offering superior support services. After all, it would be a dishonor to Mitsuhama not to pay appropriate combat bonuses and expenses to anyone it hires.
  • Although a thin, tall Japanese man in his late 40’s, Makio’s street appearance varies widely, from young caucasian women in trashy clothes to ugly black dwarves in business attire. He anonymously contacts body-rental services through the Matrix (with a masked deck), pays in certified cred from anonymous accounts, meets with his clients, then takes the body to a sleazy motel, where the owner wakes up, assuming the he or she was rented for a clandestine tryst. His discretion, or perhaps paranoia, stems from an early meet which went bad quickly. Given that this makes it impossible to build up any serious street connections of his own, he normally offers work through various fixers, who set up the meets and provide appropriate recognition codes.
  • Makio-san may have worked with the Yakuza himself at some point, and certainly has hired many Yakuza thugs for past missions. He usually deals with more professional shadowrunnners these days. He currently works in the large Mistuhama-Downtown complex. Eric knows Makio primarily because he had to ask for a few favors with regards to getting the Yaks off his back on several jobs. In return, Eric looked the other way when some job site materials (expensive power tools and a vehicle or two) went missing in order to repay some of Makio’s “special employees” with no official trail.
  • Physical: Male / Human / Oriental (Japanese) / 47 years old. / Black hair / Brown eyes
  • Identification: Bullet scars on left thigh

Jim Dougan, Mistuhama-Downtown Motorpool Chief

  • A friend of Eric’s, Dougan often came down to drink at a bar just down the block from one end of the complex. Jim isn’t a complicated man: he likes his beer cold and his scotch on the rocks, burgers and pizza all around. Something of a lout in public, he takes no small pleasure in loudly shouting down and cussing out those who borrow vehicles and damage them – at least as long as they’re company underlings.
  • While mostly uneducated, he does know his staff and his stuff. Dougan remains quite skilled at working on ground vehicles. However, he’s become sufficiently tired of manual labor over the years that he didn’t make any fuss when they promoted him to Motorpool Chief. He keeps his “boys” in line, and doesn’t much care what they do as long as the vehicles get fixed on time, a policy which doesn’t sit well with some of the upper management types. Fortunately, they almost never spend much time with the mechanics.
  • Although Dougan doesn’t have a lot of power, he can certainly lend vehicles, and even drivers or pilots, to people who need them. Given that Mitsuhama has a number of vehicle companies, he has a large variety of stock and might be able to order someone a vehicle at discounted company rates.
  • Physical: Male / Human / White Caucasian / 42 years old. / Brown hair (greying) / Blue eyes
  • Identification: No special attributes

Ellis Harlanson, Custom Gun Crafter

  • Ellis works near the Mitsuhama complex, making custom machined parts, particularly firearms. When Eric met Ellis, the latter was a machinist working quietly in a Mitsuhama factory. Eric, along with Jim Dougan and many other low-to-mid-ranking employees came to know Ellis at the local bar, which didn’t discriminate too much based on age.
  • Somehow or another, someone came up with the idea of sending Ellis to college. Due favors were pledge and deals made and palms greased, and Ellis got access to Mitsuhama’s online university program. Ellis studied some engineering, then left the school program and went into business advertising custom mechanical solutions, cheap rates, and local service.
  • He promptly got few small jobs for custom gunwork. The legality was definitely grey-market, but that didn’t matter much. He doesn’t deal in anything heavily nasty and won’t buy or resell illegal merchandise, but he’ll customize that pistol or put together precision machined parts with no questions asked. If they just happen to be easily assembled into a fully-automatic firearm, it’s no business of his.
  • Ellis is never happier than when developing a new item, and Eric stops by frequently to chat about new designs and weird ideas. It doesn’t matter much if they work – Eric has fifty failures for every one that works – it’s the fun of putting it together.
  • Physical: Male / Orc / White Caucasian + Oriental (Chinese) / 26 years old. / Black hair / Green eyes
  • Identification: No special attributes

Nicole “Nicky” Rourke

  • Nicky Rourke is the new breed of Mafioso, a hard-edged woman who negotiates brutally. As with the traditional mob, Nicky uses veiled threats to push her agenda, usually some very reasonable payments in exchange for your construction site not suffering a mysterious fire. In addition, she pushes the employment of Mafia-controlled businesses.
  • Nicky takes her job very seriously, and considers herself a Mafioso first and everything second. The Family is literally her family, because she grew up surrounded by Mafia members. With the changing face of the mob, she did not find it difficult to join and even attain a moderate rank.
  • Her negotiations with Eric Moore were unusually tense, because Mitsuhama has definite Yakuza connections. Tweaking them was tantamount to push the Yakuza slightly, too. However, the corporation was more interested in getting the jobs done and after some back and forth threats, things quieted down. Nobody really wanted a street war raging. Eric later had minor similar dealings with the Nicky in several other projects, which were happily less dangerous.
  • Physical: Female / Human / White Caucasian (Irish) / 31 years old / Red hair / Green eyes
  • Identification: Nicky appears twitchy and may have some kind of reflex enhancement

Dr. Mark F. Caine, Biosurgeon

  • Marcus Caine is an old hand at the relatively young art of advanced bioscience. Although he has a medical degree, his education goes far beyond that. He prototyped some cyberware, but jumped onto the bioware bandwagon as it was getting started. He currently works for Yamatetsu, but has previously contracted with half a dozen major corporations. His services were not always acquired without kidnaping, and he remains a little leery of the shadowrunners who so love his products.
  • Dr. Caine was instrumental in implanting Eric’s brain into the shell, but he didn’t design the body. Instead, he created a new biofabric sheath for the brain to keep it safe, warm, and healthy. Afterward, during Eric’s physical therapy sessions, the two played chess. Dr. Cain promised he could grow Eric a new body when the time comes, and Eric definitely intends to take advantage of the offer. Eric also wants to use Dr. Cain’s services to devise a better combination of all-natural bioware implants.
  • Despite the odd nature of his work, Mark Caine is a fairly genial man, and doesn’t worry too much about personal conflicts. Few of his staffers and coworkers are so relaxed in the compete-or-die corporate world of 2050.
  • Physical: Male / Dwarf / White Caucasian (Swiss) / 52 years old / Brown/Graying hair / Brown eyes
  • Identification: Thick German accent; Is followed by a light, musky personal scent (from personal bioware)

Rival: Hiroshi Akihito

  • Hiroshi Akihito is a persistent thorn in Eric’s side, although its not exactly just Eric he’s messed with. Hiroshi-san apparently despises non-Japanese and non-humans and women, and Eric is at least one and a half of those. It’s not entirely clear why or how Hiroshi became so angry about it, but the man seems to consider the idea of anyone different from himself somehow intrinsically inferior, or even unclean. The man has a chip on his shoulder the size of a watermelon, and never passes up an opportunity to screw with non-Japanese employees. Despite this, Hiroshi Akihito gets results, probably because of his slave-driving employment practices over “inferior races”, and he’s favored by the home offices in Japan which don’t experience his wrath.
  • He also happens to be Eric’s direct superior, although not the only one with an interest in his work. Hiroshi definitely dislikes Eric, even more now because he has to watch and keep track of Eric’s goings-on, including the various regulatory headaches. He loves to dock people’s pay whenever possible and insists that employees are completely replaceable as needed. Since he can’t get away with that in Eric’s case, he has so far stuck to trying to mess with the man’s image to superiors.
  • Physical: Male / Human / Oriental (Japanese) / 47 years old. / Black hair / Grey eyes
  • Identification: Light Japanese accent; Heavy acne scars on left cheek

Hiroshi Hayate, Slacker

  • Hiroshi Hayate dislikes his father more than his father’s employees, which says a lot. Hayate is basically American (or whatever) in outlook and hates corporate life with a passion. Although he has a low-level office job, he takes off as much as possible. Hiroshi Akihito covers for him (probably out of a sense of family obligation), but the two share a mutual animosity not often seen in human beings (rabid wolverines, yes) Hayate mostly hangs out with a group of thrill gangers called the MudCatTeam (a pack of Mitsuhama brats), although they don’t get into any real fights. Although Hayate is intelligent, even something of a leader, he seems to disdain that kind of role, perhaps because of his father’s bad role-modeling.
  • Physical: Male / Human / Oriental (Japanese) / 17 years old. / Black hair / Gold eyes (Cybereyes)
  • Identification: Gold cybereyes; MCT tattoo on the back of his left hand

Ex-Wife: Christine Tsiunektl

  • Christine married Eric while he was working on a large project in Tsimshian. The two were young, not very wise in the ways of the world. He was lonely on a long project in a racist land run by a tyrannous government, while she wanted to leave a poor and corrupt homeland where she had no future. The two never really clicked, but they both needed something. So they got married.
  • It never really worked out. Neither was quite mature enough to get married, and neither had family to help guide them through the transition to married life. As time went by, things sort of faded quietly. Christine left, and started working on her own. Ironically, the two are probably friendlier than ever.
  • Christine has no particularly great or useful abilities, but she has a good heart. Christine works close to the MCT compound and still has many friends there. Among other pastimes, she enjoys knitting and quilting, and frequently gives her work to friends. She is at least nominally religious. Her taste in books is horrible, and the mark of a good book is that she hates it; this would not be a problem except that she expects others to share her taste in god-awful novels.
  • Physical: Female / Human / White Caucasian + “Kwakiutl” (supposedly) / 26 years old / Black hair / Blue eyes
  • Identification: Bowl cut black hair and thick retro-style glasses

   I did have to remove some references to unions in these contacts. In Shadowrun, Unions have pretty much gone the way of the dodo. Between massive unemployment and the ability to provide basic skills cheaply, “we’ll all quit at once!” is no longer much of a threat.

Shadowrun Penumbra: Timeline

   The following timeline is slightly revised, both the fit the needs of the current game, to make it actually fit in with real-world restrictions, timelines, and principles, and to talk a bit more about causes and general developments, rather than throwing a lot of names at everyone.

2000 – 2009

  • Scientists are surprised to discover several distinct new species of mammals, reptiles, and other larger-than-insect fauna in well-explored areas. These are later concluded to be “Spike Babies” – specimens of premature awakened fauna.

2010 – 2019

  • Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome(VITAS) kills off a quarter of the world’s population.
  • Resource shortages result in intense competion, underhanded dealings, and a great deal of land-confiscation. None of that is really new, but – in view of widespread fears of global economic collapse – such policies are pursued extremely aggressively. Resisting groups are commonly arrested and interned.

2011: The Fifth Age Begins

  • Unexplained Genetic Expression(UGE) — Babies bearing a close resemblance to Elves and Dwarves are born across the world. Bizarre variants on normal animals become common as well. Minor “monsters” begin appearing (a trend that will increase steadily). Various apocalyptic cults take this as a sign of the end of the world.
  • A modest percentage of would-be magicians, psychics, witches, priests, and similar eccentrics find that their efforts are now bearing blatantly obvious fruit. While such semi-trained efforts are throughly unreliable for the most part, they are more than sufficient to spark research and efforts at exploitation.
  • Tibet regains independence, as a series of wards and barriers spring up around the country.
  • Several nuclear reactors around the world are destroyed, scattering radioactive material or even suffering total meltdowns, triggered by terrorist attacks, accidents, or bombings. It is later theorized that several theoretically-impossible malfunctions are traceable to unconscious magic and widespread fears of nuclear power.
  • Operation Discovery – a series of manned orbital experiments and unmanned probes – begins the organized exploration of the solar system and the search for suitable locations for lunar colonies.
  • A small group of Native Americans attempt nuclear blackmail to force the rollback of land confiscation and the resource rush. This fails, and a great many Native Americans are taken into custody on suspicion of backing the plot.
  • Ryumyo, a great eastern dragon, is sighted flying over Mt. Fuji, the first dragon seen by mankind in thousands of years. His appearance is shortly followed by the emergence of Celedyr, Dunkelzahn, Lofwyr, and other great dragons. Most of them find human technology, and the incredible population density of the world, a considerable shock.
  • Under the cover of a fierce storm, Daniel Howling Coyote leads a walk-out of a detainment camp. Although fired upon, he departs unharmed with his followers, leaving no trace.
  • Ley lines and henges re-emerge across the world. The oldest monuments of Egypt begin repairing themselves.
  • Dunkelzahn grants an exclusive 12-hour interview with Holly Brighton during which he explains the Awakening and the basics of the great Cycle of Magic.
  • The Shattering.Major governments across the world begin to fracture as the ability of minorities to wreak destruction exceeds the limits of the authorities ability to control them without popular cooperation. Hundreds of tiny new states appear, some of them remarkably eccentric. Mexico becomes Aztlan, backed by ORO corporation (Aztechnology), Hong Kong breaks free from mainland China, Ireland becomes the first Tir, and many similar incidents. The “Native American Nations” are formed. China fragments into Manchuria, Xinjiang, Guangxi, and the Canton Confederation. Sadly, if all too typically of the human race, the backstabbing starts almost as soon as the first microstates are formed.
  • The first effective professional magical associations are formed.
  • The Great Ghost Dance. Massive magical energies are unleashed through the willing sacrifice of magicians willing to die for their causes. Massive disturbances in the weather, volcanic eruptions, and similar disturbances follow. A sixth segment of military power enters the doctrine – personnel, supply, territorial bases, intelligence, electronics – and magic. The center of Madagascar drops off the map.
  • Early-model neural interfaces become as effective as manual control systems. Fully-functional cyberlimbs, paralysis-bypass operations, and similar applications follow almost immediately.

2020 – 2029

  • The Great Dragon Aden destroys Tehran in response to the Ayatollah’s declaration of jihad against the metahuman races.
  • Spaceplane programs are in full operation. Power satellites and microgravity manufacturing operations follow shortly.
  • Goblinization strikes 10% of the world population. There is worldwide panic and rioting and a variety of massive overreactions, mostly based on fears that it might be contagious.
  • Another wave of VITAS sweeps the world, once again decimating the population. As one of the few benefits of such a disaster, most of the racial violence dies down.
  • Cuba, Jamaica, Grenada, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands join together to form the Caribbean League – the first of the Distributed States, united by common circumstances and interests rather than territoriality or ideology.
  • With authority in collapse, gangs and gang wars dominating otherwise lawless zones in major cities, and the corporations upgrading their security forces into internal military forces, the world totters on the brink of anarchy. On the good side, what “civil rights” remain are generally extended to metahumans, and even to some awakened sapients from animal stock: they hit just as hard as anyone else. The Humanis Policlub, and similar organizations – such as the old KKK – expand in reaction.
  • The first commercial simsense systems hit the mass market. Similar firsts include formal recognition of the ability to summon spirits, the publication of various modern-style spell formula, formal programs for occult studies in major universities, and cyberware entering the high-end markets of special agents, professional sports stars, and research.
  • The trend of turning law enforcement over to contracted corporations begins to expand rapidly: in many cases, the local corporate guards are the only available non-military forces capable of handling magically or technologically enhanced threats.
  • The Roman Catholic Church issues the In Imago Dei encyclical, stating that metahumans have souls and are capable of salvation, that magical abilities are not inherently evil, and that spirits are manifestations of nature. The Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Mormon, and Scientologist faiths follow suit. The major Muslim factions continue to follow the decrees of Islamic Law, which decrees death for all magicians (this does not work out well when the magicians actually have power). Lacking central authorities to rule on such decrees, the Protestants and many other loosely-organized faiths split on these and other issues, becoming increasingly fragmented and increasingly less relevant. Minor religions, however, become increasingly popular.
  • Practical fusion power is developed. With cheap power comes relatively cheap desalination systems, forced-growth yeast-algae systems yielding plentiful supplies of extremely cheap food, cheap fiber, and cheap production. Over the ensuing decades much of the world population becomes redundant, supported by handouts and subsidized foodstuffs as a recruiting pool and a source of talented offspring.
  • With the development of prototype cyberterminals, intelligence organizations around the world begin a massive push to upgrade their electronic-warfare defenses and their offensive capabilities. Unfortunately, at least one major war-virus is released onto the internet, whether by hackers, accident, or design is never discovered.
  • Paranatural plants and creatures are now major factors in farming, mining, and resource exploitation.
  • Massive systems crashes – and casualties – occur worldwide as one or more war-viruses begin to spread through the worlds computer networks. Talented individuals are drafted and massive resources are thrown into combating the spread of the infections. Many die, since the viruses can induce lethal biofeedback in those contacting them directly. The combined system developments are more than a match for any existing form of computer security. The virus will not be entirely purged from the net until the early days of the next decade.

2030 – 2039

  • Metahumans – and even Ghouls – are increasingly founding their own nations. Awakened forces seize the more hostile areas of the globe, such as Siberia, to which they are better suited than normal humans.
  • Canada and the US merge into the UCAS. The Confederated American States secede shortly thereafter.
  • Brushfire Wars – small border conflicts, raids, provocations, and attempts to seize special resources – are now common across the world. Strategic strikes against command-and-control (as opposed to population, production, or simple military) targets tends to keep things under control. Many such strikes are apparently launched by annoyed third parties.
  • The first Nanosecond Buyout: Damien Knight takes control of Ares.
  • Matrix Systems releases first gray-market cyberterminal. It shortly thereafter suffers a computer crash and its two primary shareholders die in “unrelated accidents”. Richard Villiers, the remaining majority shareholder, buys into Fuchi with the Matrix Systems technology. It is, however, far too late: the basic technology is loose in the underworld.
  • The Elven Nations take form, under the leadership of a variety of dubious figures. Aithne Oakforest, Sean Laverty, Lugh Surehand, and Ehran the Scribe, all previously unknown, become major figures. Oakforest and Laverty become strong advocates of reoccupying and revitalizing cities while Surehand and Ehran become more social figures, bringing the elves together into a new society.
  • California – like so many other places – secedes. Unlike many other places, it’s rich and fragmented enough to become a target itself. Tir Tairngire invades south to Redding, Aztlan invades north to San Diego, and Japan takes control of San Francisco.
  • Alamos 20,000 – an anti-metahuman group – begins major terrorist operations. A call for some form of “universal identification” eventually results in many countries creating a citizenship and basic-record data pool; their filing codes rapidly become known as System Information Numbers – or SIN’s.
  • The first reasonably-satisfactory formulation of current magical theory is developed.
  • As mana levels rise, the transformation and regeneration of entire ecosystems begins.
  • Practical simsense recording, selective amplification, replay, and emotional-content technology arrives. BTL’s are developed.
  • Shadowhavens – dedicated data systems, safehouses, and organizations dedicated to supporting non-governmental mercenary, espionage, and corporate operations become common.
  • The Great Dragons – having observed that massed human weapons and technology is easily a match for their physical and magical power – begin to exploit their ancient wealth, superior magical lore, and superhuman intellects to amass economic and political power.
  • The Night of Rage: Anti-metahuman groups stage a coordinated uprising. Thousands of metahumans, as well as human friends, family, supporters, and wannabes die in global riots. Further attacks destroy numerous buildings and kill large numbers of innocent bystanders. The destruction in Chicago and New York City is especially massive.
  • Forensic use of magic becomes widely accepted. Direct magical evidence, spiritual evidence, and compulsion-spells are widely considered inadmissable since the bias of the practicioner is an issue, but physical evidence located by such means is accepted virtually everywhere.
  • A worldwide conference lays the groundwork for the modern Matrix as the successor to the old Internet, establishing standards, protocols, and addressing conventions designed to fulfill both current and projected needs for decades to come.
  • Massive experimentation on human subjects is revealed in several locations around the world, along with grossly exploitive – and even reprehensible – corporate behaviors and the first reported incidences of sacrificing humans and metahumans to power magic. The “Robin Hood and his Merry Reporters” shadowrunning tradation emerges as a clear rival to the Mercenaries, simple Criminals, and “Social Justice” divisions.

2040 – 2049

  • With practical fusion plants, ever-increasing security needs, little need for farmlands, and the predominance of corporate enclaves, arcologies have become a common form of architecture.
  • The development of early forms of Skill- and Knowledge- bestowing cyberware makes the last few old-style unions completely obsolete.
  • The existence of Vampires is exposed to the public. Several vampire-backed groups attempt power plays, none successful. Several vampire-hunting organizations are given official sanction and backing.
  • The Universal Brotherhood, based on psychological research into the mathematical underpinnings of human and metahuman consciousness – and, by extension, all conscious beings – is founded.
  • In the wake of the release of tolerably-effective home simsense magical training courses and a selection of magical formula into the public domain the first known wiz-kid gangs appear.
  • The Great Dragon Sirrug destroys EuroAir Flight 329 from London to Atlanta. Sirrug, shortly thereafter, also becomes the first known Great Dragon to be killed by modern human weaponry. He is not to be the last.
  • Dunkelzahn begins his semi-annual “Wyrm Talk” broadcasts, rapidly becoming an accepted and respected citizen of the world.
  • Formal procedures for Initiation, and the first metamagical theorems, are developed. More intuitive magicians have been developing both Initiation Rituals and their own metamagics for some time, but having a well-developed underlying theory makes the process for more reliable, cheaper in terms of karma, and more effective.
  • Localized VITAS outbreaks continue, although current countermeasures usually suffice for rapid containment.
  • Aztlan (Aztechnology) nationalizes all foreign businesses and properties. Foreign governments and companies return the favor, ceasing to honor contracts, disallowing import and export from Aztlan, and refusing to recognize Aztlan laws and funds. Without foreign recognition of offenses against Aztlan, the country becomes a magnet for raiders. Aztlan wind up paying market rates plus penalties for critical assets and returning control of non-critical assets as long as the nominal holders are Aztlan citizens.
  • Self-teaching expert systems with easily-programmable goals are developed and rapidly become publicly available. True AI’s are unlikely to be far behind.

2050 – 2054

  • Cyberdecks are now portable and, with modest effort, concealable.
  • Bioware hits the public market
  • Seattle-Tir Tairngire trade agreement, by which Seattle becomes the Tir’s major port.
  • The Great Dragon Hestaby takes possession of Shasta Dam and some surrounding territory in Northern California, repelling a Tir attack.
  • A site 150 miles off Crete is tentatively identified as the location of “Atlantis”.

   Given that some of the technologies introduced in Shadowrun IV violate major laws of physics without explaining how, or what the new principles are supposed to be – thus making it impossible to answer questions about what can and cannot be done with particular technologies – the game will not be switching to Shadowrun IV in the foreseeable future.

Shadowrun: Eric Moore

   Here’s one of the last few major player characters for the current Shadowrun campaign – in this case a pretty much full-conversion cyborg.

   Eric graduated college at Texas A&M, after having moved to the soon-to-be CAS in the wake of the Indian Wars and the breakup of the United States. In the confusion and chaos, his citizenship is… confused. He’s never officially declared for anyone, and his family background is not very clear; his family broke up and relatives have either died or fell out of touch.

   He studied Civil Engineering (first at Arizona State, which doesn’t even exist anymore), and got a job at a mining company. He supervised the use and abuse of explosive materials. Since licensing got a little confused after the national breakup, he handled and applied explosives even without a formal state authorization.

   A few years later, his company was bought out by Mitsuhama Computer Technologies, expanding into the North American market and trying to assure a steady supply of raw materials. Eric continued working the mining operations, setting up major jobs in Texas, California Free State, Tsimshian, and Salish-Sidhe.

   In that last job, working alongside Gaeatronics on their power plant, he received an offer for MCT’s Seattle division. The Seattle company was involved in building demolition, clearing out space for new corporate offices (not only their own), and needed more supervisors with experience. Eric took the job.

   After working construction for a couple years, Eric moved into a more desk-job-oriented position. He dealt with hiring for a lot of construction and factory jobs. With the Seattle market settling down and construction getting more and more scrutiny (with the increasing use of Shadowrunners), his job became much more sedate. But he also lost opportunities to advance.

   Things were boring and largely hopeless, with too many older management types around, especially since the Japanese tended to dominate the upper ranks with their own obnoxious brand of chauvinism. Fortunately or unfortunately, fate intervened and broke up Eric’s dull, normal, life. On a visit to a job site, he was accidentally run over by a careless dozer driver. And then the driver, seeing people panic, got confused and rove forward over Eric again.

   Eric’s chest was crushed and most of the rest of his body was destroyed. One arm was severed totally and his leg bones turned to powder. Most of his major organs were savagely burst open, and it was only the quick application of oxygenated fluorocarbons which prevented brain damage and death.

   Theoretically, his body could have been healed (with Shadowrun technology), but the surgery would have been likely to kill him, and he already required constant life support just to keep from dying. They had to place a simple simsense system just so he could respond to simply question, and no amount of pain medication was going to hide the fact that his body was mostly turned to jelly.

   Simply put, there weren’t many options. He’d need months of life support for them to clone organs, or just huge amounts of cyberware. And either way meant huge, huge debts he couldn’t really pay. But in the meantime, MCT came back with an offer.

   Instead of lying in a bed hoping the doctors could keep him going for long enough, MCt would pay for the necessary surgery to put him into an experimental neuroborg shell. He didn’t have much left except his brain anyway, and this way he could at least work and “live.” Eric accepted. He didn’t have too much choice in the matter anyhow.

 

Priority

Spent

Gain

Resources

16

280,000 ¥

Skills

12

34 Active Skill Points

Attribute Points

12

24 Attribute Points

Magic

6

Latent

Available Races

26

Neuroborg

Subtotal

72

 
     
     

Base Points

60

 

Race Bonus

6

 

Net Edges/Flaws

6

 

Total Available

72

 

   Well, that is a minor surprise: race values of 22 and up included a +6 bonus to Magic. This really wasn’t meant to apply to Neuroborgs, who are only a “race” by technicality, but no one ever noticed before – and, by the usual rule of “the person who finds an editing error or slip-up in the rules gets to use it”, so be it.

Basic Attributes

 

Augmented

Body

5

18

Quickness

2

5

Strength

5

10

Charisma

1

-5

Intelligence

6

 

Willpower

5

 
     

Special Attributes

 

Reaction

4

11

Initiative

1d6 + 4

4d6 + 11

Essence

6

0.4

Magic

0

 
     

Dice Pools

 

Karma

2

 

Astral Combat

7

 

Combat

6

 

Control

4

 

Hacking

2

 

Spell

   
     

Good Karma

0

 

Karma Earned

10

 

Karma Spent

10

 

Skills and Knowledges

Active Skills

Rating

Edged Weapons

4

Throwing

4

Computer

5

Etiquette: Corp

4

Negotiation

5

Demolitions

4

Motorcycles

4

Motorboats

4

     

Build/Repair/Skills

Rating

Edged Weapons B/R

2

Throwing Weapons B/R

2

Computer B/R

2

Demolitions B/R

2

Motorcycles B/R

2

Motorboats B/R

2

     

Knowledge Skills

Rating

Mitsuhama

5

Civil Engineering

5

Japanese Culture

4

North American Zoology

4

Western Philosophy

4

Cybertechnology

4

Metallurgy

4

Human Resources

4

Parabotany

4

Talismongering

4

 

Edges:

Name

Prelim Cost

Final Cost

Educated: 2

2

2

Longevity

1

1

Rapid Learner

5

5

Freeware: Major

3

3

     

Biotolerance

3

1.5

Geneware: 6.0 BI

13

6.5

Initiate: 2 (Oath)

3

1.5

Summoner: 3

6

3

“+1 Cha/Summoning”

1

0.5

     
 

Add Sum

24

   This has a problem: the character intends to become a mage if he can ever afford to get his cell samples genetically modified with assorted geneware upgrades, a new body grown, and his brain put into it. That’s why he got half-price on the second group of edges; they don’t actually have an effect at the moment.

   On the other hand, normally lost essence cannot be restored, and – if a characters magic rating ever goes down to 0 – they go mundane and can’t bring it up again unless that “initiating mundanes” thing works out. Ergo, we need to keep his magic rating above 0 at the moment (although this will allow him to be a pretty heavily cybered mage later on).

   Secondarily, no edge can have a cost of more than 6 points. That means that the “geneware” edge is definitely pushing things. Given that it may never come into play, I suppose we can let Mr Moore get away with treating the modified cost as the limit, but 6.5 is still too high.

   Just as importantly, Geneware doesn’t work that way: You can get one point of innate bioware for 3 edge points, and it still has the normal BI cost. To get that down costs a FURTHER 1 edge point per -.5.

   To fix this take Geneware/-6 Body Index (12 edge points). This genetic hack will allow his body to handle 6 points of bioware without effect, but he’ll still have to pay for it – expensive, but in comparison with paying off his current body, a trivial expense. (2) Take the half-point this saves and use it to buy Initiate I with an Oath (2 edge points), and apply it to his original latent magical talents – taking Attunement II (+2 Magic) and Astral Sight. With that, he’ll have astral sight (if he learns to use it) and enough magic to be trainable later. Presumably he tried to initiate while in college or something and thought what little he saw at the time was a hallucination or something – especially since, as a latent talent, he had no active magical talents to disturb the rest of his life.

Revised Edges:

Name

Prelim Cost

Final Cost

Educated: 2

2

2

Longevity

1

1

Rapid Learner

5

5

Freeware: Major

3

3

Initiate I (Oath)

2

2

     

Biotolerance

3

1.5

Geneware: -6.0 BI

12

6.0

Summoner: 3

6

3

“+1 Cha/Summoning”

1

0.5

     
 

Add Sum

24

 

Flaws:

Name

Value

Cortex Bomb: Cutoff Switch

6

Distinctive

1

Enemies: Minor

1

Freakish: What IS that!?

4

Legal problems

2

Miser

3

Obligations: Com/Maj/Plot

4

Oblivious

2

Offensive: Magicians

2

On File: Benign/Megacorp

4

PsyQ: Honorable/VC/Mod

4

PsyQ: Chromeheads freak him out

3

Sum

36 (23 effective)

Exempt Flaws*

 

Detailed Background

4

Day Job: Major

3

Net Total

30

   *Normally flaws over 10 points are halved in value, but Detailed Background and Day Job – since they can serve as plot hooks – are exempt from this. Unfortunately, there’s a minor problem here: no combination of Psychological Quirks can be worth more than 6 points, and he’s listed for seven – requiring problems which are both severe and appearing constantly. Dropping to 6 leaves him .5 points short. The easiest way to deal with this is to drop the “+1 Cha/Summoning” entry to rebalance things. That would be cheap to buy later anyway.

   Secondarily, several items need to be defined a bit more. What are his legal problems, and how and why does he offend magicians?

   On the other hand, a known positive psychological quirk – being Honorable – is worth a -2 modifier on social target numbers when it comes up. This is a good thing, since being a freakish cyborg may otherwise make most social interactions impossible.

 

Cyberware

¥ Cost

Essence

Neuroborg Chasses

12 Million

5.76

     

Additional Systems

 

Borg Ess.

Wired Reflexes 3

0.00

5.00

Titanium Bone Lacing

75,000

2.25

Dermal Sheath 3

120,000

2.10

     

Knowsoft Link

1,000

0.10

Orientation System

15,000

0.25

Internal GPS

2,000

0.10

Spatial Recognizer

1,200

0.20

Holdout II

4,000

0.20

     

Hearing Amplification

3,500

0.20

Hearing Dampener

3,500

0.10

High-Frequency Hearing

3,000

0.20

Low-Frequency Hearing

3,000

0.20

     

Image Link

1,600

0.10

Flare Compensation

2,000

0.10

Thermal Sight

3,000

0.20

Ultrasound Sight

10,000

0.50

Electronic Magnification 3

11,000

0.10

Totals

258,800

11.90

   Well, since a Neuroborg Chasses can accept up to 15 Essence worth of Cyberware, that works out. I’m not quite sure why Wired Reflexes III is listed as a free item, but at 12 million worth of freeware already, what’s another half-a-million? There may also be some compatability issues – Bone Lacing and a Dermal Sheathe may not go with Neuroborg – but I’ll have to dig out the book to see if there’s a cyberlimb-compatible equivalent.

Contacts

  • Makio Yen, MCT Special Recruiter
  • Jim Dougan, MCT Motorpool Chief

   Minor Purchases (20,000 NY): Pocket Computer, Telephone, Mechanic’s Kit, Flashlight, and a BMW Starfire Motorcycle.

Gates of Shadow: Shadowrun Campaign Log

   Here we have a campaign log for the first five or so sessions of the latest ShadowRun campaign, from the point of view of one of the players.

Campaign Log

Episode 1: The Meet-n-Greet

(Or, Concentrated Loonies in a Can)

   After receiving a mission from his superiors at Mitsuhama, Eric Moore decided to give his contact Makio Yen a visit. He was probably going to need help investigating the extremely strange disappearances inside the corporate compound and occurring around the city. Makio eventually acceded to putting out a call, though only after claiming there was no-one available at all. About the only known Shadowrunner who might be interested was a certain Stanley Sticks, known to be a Physical Adept or something.

   Eric arranged a meeting with Mr. Sticks, who brought along Kimiko Nelson, a former British spy and counter-terrorist agent – someone who could surely help out a lot on this kind of mission. After receiving the message, Kimiko then had to deal with her housemate. She didn’t know she had a housemate until then, and apparently hadn’t noticed the various home repairs her masterful ninja friend performed.

   Wait? The ninja had been living there for three months? Anyway, Kimiko came along to the meet, and the ninja was not far behind. Everyone assumed that someone else hired him, and he tagged along since the pay was good. Also, he obviously knew Kimiko from somewhere, although neither one really talked about it.

   The team promptly settled on an external lead about vanishing gangs, and explored around the Barrens. We located some gang turf which was changing hands due to the previous owners simply going away one night. After a little investigation, we located their turf (an abandoned factory) and explored around, stealing some trivial goodies as we did so.

   Then… we called the cops.

   Well, we hadn’t done anything wrong, had ample documentary evidence, and were investigating the same angle, and had determined that the killer was likely some freak mage sacrificing people in gruesome mass murders.

   Fortunately, the cops were understanding if unhappy. Though unhappy about our involvement, they did let slip more than a few tidbits, and a little data searching discovered the rest. They believed there were probably four murderers or rings around kakking people, with the vanished people being anything from squatters to corp brats.

 

Episode 2: Adventures in Astral Spaaaaaaaaaace!

(Or, Feet of Cyber)

   Having come up against a bit of a dead end (literally) that way, the party decided to go back to Square One and investigate missing Mitsuhama children. With some cross referencing, we easily figured out they shared certain interests, like magic. We then proceeded to put tracking on current suspects, spying on them in their rooms. Whenever anything odd happened, we could know.

   Something did.

   After noting that the kids had used their computers and then vanished (with no unusual activity being recorded, the ninja came up with the brilliant plan to watch for keyboard strokes which didn’t match the computer activity. Bingo. Everyone snuck off and observed the kidnapping in action. Someone was sending Watchers – powerful, for Watchers – to communicate as an overlay on the computer screen. Guessed the enemy was using astral magic to steal them away (whoa!), the party arranged to watch the kids being stolen away and try to trace them back to the source to rescue the others.

   Well, we succeeded in a manner of speaking. Eric Moore stopped one kidnapping (by tackling a kid with his huge cyberbody) while Mr. Sticks tailed after another. Of course, that one was zooming through Astral Space, so it was a matter of just watching where they went for as long as possib – Oooooohhh. Never mind. Mr. Sticks just set off flying as fast as the spirit could go, and tailed it right to the source, of sorts. The rest of the gang followed in a company helo.

   Things quickly went bad. One team (Kimiko, Sticks, and Samael) entered the main building, where they found the awful results of a massacre and magical ritual, and a gaping heart of chaos leading to the swirling realms of Madness and Possibility (well, the metaplanes anyway). Ah.

   That was impressive and scary. They were swiftly attacked by ghosts who kept trying to attack them, although the ghosts were quite incapable of harming anyone. Aside from the many skeletons on the ground, there appeared to be incinerated bodies. Samael set a water spirit through the gateway, whereupon a much more powerful fire spirit came out. It immediately took off like a rocket, with Stanley Sticks in hot pursuit.

   Eric and the Ninja went off to the nearby building to investigate a large heat source, perhaps people packed together somehow? They found, however, magically infested hobos strong enough to rip steal apart, and who could spit acid… who were guarding an entire bulging ant mound full of the things. They wanted to eat the ninja’s spirit.

   There was a fight. It wasn’t pretty. The ninja was down his enhancements, and Eric got hit savagely, hard enough to buckle his body plating. Not good! The rest of the team arrive in time to help, particularly Samael and especially Kimiko, who shot some and dropped some explosives into the “Ant Nest” to block up the hole.

   Finally, some groups responded to Eric’s frantic cries over the radio, which alerted Renraku, Mitsuhama, and the Military. All of them came in, with Lone Star probably following, but the military arrived first and declared its authority via martial law, and firing missiles at anything they didn’t like. Nobody argued.

   Specifically, they argued with everyone, including the party, over the super-bums, until said monsters burst from the ground hurling rocks like small missiles. The military responded with actual missiles. Hilarity ensued.

 

Interlude: Holy Frag!

(Or, A Reptile Spirit in the Hand is Worth… Nothing, Because it’s Incredibly Dangerous)

   Flying after the fire spirit, Stanley Sticks zoomed all the way to South America. They attracted so much attention the Amazonian military sent a jet after then, as well as an Astrally Projecting mage. The mage was very curious as to what exactly, was going on, but it wasn’t too hard to convince him the random roaming fire spirit and crazy superman didn’t particularly mean any harm. The spirit soon stopped at an ancient ruin, whereupon he bragged about his mighty powers and mighty city (neither of which were all that impressive anymore). He/She seemed to have no idea of technology beyond spears or cultures beyond small city-state, and assumed he would be worshipped as a living god. He tried to recruit Mr. Sticks as high priest, which Mr. Sticks happily declined (being more powerful than the “god” anyhow). Stanley then sent him off to mess with the Japanese, apparently because it was funny, and set off for home.

   The Amazonian mage was speechless at the stupid.

   With the battle over, it was time for some investigation. Kimiko found a computer, which she fiddled with and robbed of the hard drive. This was the diary and logfiles of the experimenters, and contained basic information on the leaders, as well as the very lowest data on the ritual itself. Actually reproducing it would require a lot of development, but the fundamental genius was all there.

   Pretty much everyone immediately tried to grab a copy to sell or hand over to their personal friends.

   However, for the moment, the party set up some wards around the warphole and explained the situation to the military, who were neither pleased nor all that understanding. Things did not improve when a psycho half-feral pair of kids wanged a couple soldiers, or when Zheung Bao’s darkness covered Eric’s eyes in a nightmarish vision of the hell world which the absolute worst possible version of the Earth could have been. (Eric panicked and nearly threw himself into the portal, saved only by the timely intervention of Mr. Sticks.)

   Having thus wrecked things, the party returned to Mitsuhama and rested.

   After a few upgrades to handle those spirits, they went in search of Copper, one of those who had been in the ritual, and who had apparently gotten out alive. Mr. Sticks used his contacts to figure out he’d been assassinating people for cold cash (and had become much more powerful). Stanley then used his contacts to arrange a meet with Copper.

   The meet went down at a Renton baseball field, at a minor-league game. Eric would stay out of sight, while the team would, well, meet Copper and have popcorn. Kimiko was going to stay behind as well, in order for the team to be able to ambush him on the way out. Things did not go well, in manner of speaking.

   Copper turned out to be wholly emotionless. In act, he didn’t even blink at strange events, including people punching through the pavement to hand him messages. The meeting mostly went off alright, with Stanley offering a fake mission and asking Copper to see if it would be possible.

   Copper went down the carpark, where Kimiko had sabotaged his engine by removing the spark plugs. He was not amused. Kimiko mouthed off, Copper took away her coffee, she tried to shoot him, and then Copper tossed her five miles away into the bay.

   However, Copper turned out to be most reasonable after that, so things worked out. He was slightly annoyed (maybe) after being told there was no assassination mission, but was most willing to offer advice about the Insect Spirits. In fact, he confirmed they were Inspect Spirits at all. We offered to hire him for that job, and he agreed to be available when we needed. He also pointed us toward the next insect hive… and “Hive” turned out to be all too accurate.

 

Episode 3: A Total Buzz-Kill

(Or, The Queen-Bee Strikes Back, Repeatedly and Hard)

   With Copper’s information in hand, we prepared for a heavy shitstorm of destruction. The last attack had gone badly, with us being unprepared and forced to call in aid at the last minute. That wouldn’t happen again, because we’d go in with heavy armaments. This entailed contacting Lone Star and the military again, so we could have prior support and their goodies. The party would go in with lots of neurostun, wrapped in gas masks and chemsuits, and armed to the teeth with guns, explosives, and grenades.

   And so we went off to visit a random block, with a church, electronics stores, apartments, battered women’s shelter, and youth house. Hey, this is Shadowrun. You never know what will happen when you visit a battered women’s shelter!

   The party first did a thorough sweep of any bolt holes or escape tunnels, eventually concluding they hadn’t cut through into the storm drains. There were extensive unconnected tunnels, however, and it wasn’t hard to imagine them using those. Still, we didn’t know what kind of insects we might be encountering, so it was unwise to assume they were hanging out underground.

   With the authorities, as well as several curious corporations taking up outside positions, it was time to move in. We swept into the area and decided to look for magically-active or magically-distorted individuals, since Zheung Bao and Samael had seen their twisted astral forms earlier.

   That quickly worked out. The party spellcasters all quickly spotted insect spirits working in the local simsense arcade, ushering customers in and selling them on programs. This was a very good way to find new “members” to induct.

   The party went in as customers, and amusingly, the insects didn’t really notice much out of the ordinary. Kimiko was a customer, as was Zheung Bao. Eric pretended to guard Zheung Bao, while Samael and Stanley waited outside. Everyone looked around for the origin of the insects. In fact, it appeared they were gathering mystic energy to put into people from the backroom, so that must be where the Queen was.

   Eric called the group into action and tried to go into he backroom, where he found… two young girls, who were obviously not one of the Queen hosts from the original experiment. Well, shit. Particularly since the Insects – apparently Bee spirits – were now hot and angry and ready to rumble.

   This wouldn’t have been so bad, with Eric, Stanley, and Kimiko involved (Samael somehow wandered off and Zheung Bao was locked into the program), except that these spirits were able to use a basic stun spell. One, or even two or three, was no problem. A dozen, on the other hand, were able to spam attacks until the party started going down. Still, they were individually weak, and through the liberal use of superflash, neurostun, and punching, the party barely prevailed (if on the edge of collapse). Zheung Bao turned the tide when he finally managed to log out and chucked a neurostun grenade of his own.

   On a happy note, there were no casualties at all except for the poor man who lived above the simsense store. He wound up with a bullet in the foot courtesy of a stray round from Kimiko.

   With Lone Star and the military, the party sent the prisoners into extremely secure custody for interrogation (and likely death). Unfortunately, the two girls turned out to simply be holders of magical energy. The Queen was elsewhere, and it was time to take the block apart looking.

   That didn’t take long. After a few minutes to catch out breath and get some medical treatment, the party fanned out to look for bug spirits. Stanley started flying to watch things. Samael scouted around the ground, along with Zheung Bao and Kimiko. Kimiko investigated the large electronics store by making a purchase just before close. He noted the store’s employees were young, like the bugs at the simsense arcade, and were very intent on running some program on their computers. He then ran a fiber-optic cable into the electronics store to peer inside, and saw the employees were continuing in their computer work. It was very odd, and very suspicious.

   Samael was the first to spot the enemy, a girl who was dual natured. Or was that an insect spirit at all? No one ever found out, because the kid shot her… with a glue gun.. and then left with her parents after giving Samael the raspberry. Suddenly snipers started popping out on the roofs of most of the buildings. Samael was the first to spot one, and was promptly shot for his efforts; Stanley was able to locate all of then quickly from above, however.

   Kimiko went after the sniper, but got a little too enthusiastic. The sniper had planted explosives and bombed the stairs, shooting Kimiko over to the simsense arcade roof. Eric, still recovering from the earlier battle, called in a medical helicopter and warned the army about what was going on. While Kimiko was in evac, the military started moving in a few troops in APC’s. Zheung Bao and Stanley went up to the roof to handle getting Kimiko onto the chopper. Eric, meanwhile, was hit by a sniper (to no effect) when went everything went to hell.

   While the APC’s crashed into the battered women’s shelter (which was mostly empty and had a sniper on the roof), military drones flew overhead. This was good. However, before you could blink twice, mini-drones started popping out all over the place, as the insects’ defense network came online. They also began heavy jamming and blocked off most transmissions. The sniper on the shelter took a suicide dive; one APC only barely survived the blast, but the soldiers inside were still alive and well.

   Eric tried to get the attention of the drones and took a flying leap half the block into the youth center, which he then seeded with incendiary grenades (it was abandoned right now anyway). Some drones came through and crashed around. Zheung Bao and Stanley used a shaped-charge explosive to pop a hole into the basement of the simsense arcade, as they discovered there was a way into the insect hive there. They discovered a tunnel with lots of explosive supplies. The ninja and Mr. Sticks handily smacked around the insects there, and considered how best to open the heavy security door in place over the tunnel.

   Samael was investigating the church, and found a way down. There he spotted many insects running around, but they didn’t consider his “puddle of water form” a distinct threat. The bugs were preparing a tough defense, with numerous mines and a suicide soldier or two to blow up the tunnel if things went south. Samael stayed behind and chatted with a couple (or rather, he chatted while they threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave). Samael then simply banished one, although the other was able to drive off the puddle of water. The remaining insect blew the tunnel, and Samael was forced to retreat into a crypt or burn to death, and as he was on the border of death, retreat seemed like a good plan anyway.

   The military commander (temporarily played by Kimiko’s player) got a little panicked by the sudden appearance of a well-equipped paramilitary in Seattle, and tried to order around more soldiers than he had. Despite the confusion, then troops were taking control of the area nicely and even blocked off a possible escape route. The initial surprise drone shock caused trouble, but Eric took a flying leap onto the electronics store roof and smashed the enemy’s communications gear. Combined with a light mortar attack of Neurostun, the tide was quickly turning.

   Eric then joined Stanley and Zheung Bao, and together they quickly cleared the tunnel, with a little help courtesy of the ninja’s darkness spirit. No puny insect was going to stop it! The trio soon located the central hive in an abandoned subway station, and decided to simply explode it. They handed the darkness spirit a handful of incendiaries and almost 30 kilos of C-12, taken from the insect’s own stash. And then it was time to run.

   Hilarity ensued, and happily even the above-ground block was mostly spared.

   In the aftermath, things mostly went pretty easily. The remaining insects were quickly rounded up, the electronics store was well looted for an ample cash bonus, and the innocents on the block more or less all survived quite nicely. The only downside was that most of the corporations in the city now knew something very, very bad was up and were quite freaked that the military was shooting off weapons in ordinary neighborhoods. Secrecy wouldn’t be kept for long, but hopefully it would be enough to take out the last Queen before he or she could run. Kimiko made a full recovery and soon got back on her feet, and Samael healed nicely once she escaped from the locked crypt.

Linear Realms

   Today it’s a special request: while it is fun to play with mighty magical powers and battle whole armies, it does tend to leave the melee specialists a bit out of the loop. Ergo, it’s about time for a visit to a realm that doesn’t allow much magic – or any without drawing on outside powers – and only allows small-scale psychic abilities. Still, it SHOULD still have a fairly decent technology level, and offer confined conditions and plenty of hostile groups and local subplots; that will force the characters to rely a bit more on stealth, subtlety, and occasional hand-t0-hand violence.

   Fortunately, there’s a realm on Kevin’s list that’s almost tailor-made for things like this on the list: the Linear Developments Realm – a realm spawned from core about four centuries ago. As with many realms, when Kevin first visited this one, he did a bit of casual recruiting and left one of the recruits behind as an agent: over the next few years, a surprising number of new recruits came from the Linear Developments – something which he really must get around to looking into now that he’s assigned a few more Thralls to positions there.

   The History of the Linear Developments looks something like this:

   2043: Massive overcrowding in several nations major cities leads to the creation of the Renia Manshon or “Linear Developments” – massive strips of essentially-identical 32-floor apartment / limited-function arcology blocks joined into multiple-mile long mass habitations. Their myriad connections, identically repeating unit designs (making it easy to crosslink surveillance feeds), massive size, and abundance of electronic and human screening, soon make them favored locations for criminal operations.

   2047: After population control laws enacted in several nations mandate sterilization treatments after the live birth of a third child and immediate treatment of fourth and later children born more than one year later many groups in the Linear Developments begin concealing the births of their second and later children, creating a sizable, floating population of illegal and unregistered youngsters throughout the Linear Developments. With official sources of supplies and services stretched thin, scams, theft, and petty crime become a way of life.

   2057: With the Linear Developments well-established, several thriving criminal enterprises are equally well-established. Illegal substances, amusements, and (especially) forged paperwork, are produced by numerous gangs and syndicates who exploit the dense populations of the Linear Developments, and the plentiful supply of officially non-existent children there, as runners, troops, slave labor, organ donors, playthings, and experimental animals. Unfortunately, the overworked law enforcement organizations have widely come to be seen by the linear residents as enemies, providing even the worst of the criminal syndicates with widespread cooperation and cover.

   Out in the Manifold, the identically repeating structures, standard-issue supplies, clothing, and public health care (including, thanks to popular obsession with the topic, life-extension treatments), relatively confined spaces, regular cycle of public events, and mass-produced entertainments are tailor-made to develop a strong, consistent, realm – a repeating tangle of linear arcologies, limited-access greenway parks, industrial and service zones, and upper-class skyscrapers surrounded by vaguely-defined factory farms. Fortunately, at least at first, most of the “victim” and “oppressive authority” roles are filled by phantasms.

   2074: The Kochinde Massacre. In a well-coordinated attack, several apparently-innocuous groups manage to infest 38 Linear Developments with nerve gasses and biowarfare agents – striking primarily in the middle of the night and then sacrificing themselves blocking attempts at sounding the alarm or sealing off the more distant sections of the arcologies. While their success is far from total – more than two-thirds of the Linear Development population escapes unharmed – the plot kills some 46 million. Many pass into the Manifold in their sleep, without even noticing the transition, turning a strong, consistent, realm into bustling world. In core, no one is ever able to determine why a series of fantasy-fiction fan clubs decided to emulate – on a larger scale – some of the background events of the Kochinde Saga, but the reaction includes banning the Saga and various related materials as well as breaking up the Linear Developments.

   This may have been an accidental incidence of a primitive infectious violence or “weaponized” meme – or it may have been an intentional act by someone with a truly advanced understanding of the human mind. No one has ever found out for sure.

   Out in the Manifold, over the ensuing centuries – despite both medical treatment and the unconscious life-extension typical of the manifold – the initial residents of the Linear developments pass into other lives and realms. As the original linear developments recede into history, the flow of “recruits” from the core slows to a trickle. However, with better than fifty million initial residents – mostly from groups with a cultural commitment to large numbers of children – the total ensouled population of the Linear Development Realms swelled rapidly into the billions, despite the reduced fertility of the Manifold and the continuing “enforcement” of the sterilization laws. Unfortunately, that means that the “victim” roles are now mostly being filled by real people as opposed to phantasms.

   As a first-circle realm, the Linear Developments prohibit magic, although they do allow basic psionics (witchcraft), and – in fact – allow it considerably greater range than it normally has. Boosters for both power and range exist, but are generally too large for transport. Given that Psychics could command considerable salaries, they were rarely residents of the original Linear Developments – and so are most often encountered there as a part of the somewhat-oppressive (if fundamentally benign) power structure and/or working for the law-enforcement organizations.

   The technology level is essentially of the early “cyberpunk” era: computer and monitoring systems are ubiquitous, but not yet widely linked into a near-inescapable web. Simple communications and tracking implants are available, but advanced systems are extremely rare. “Smart” fibers are not available (but will function if imported), and negative energy systems will not work locally. Similarly, advanced energy weapons tend to be translated into basic firearms. Most visitors will find themselves cast as “outsiders” – performers, public-service types, criminals, law-enforcement, religious figures, and other specialists – who’s jobs take them from one Linear Development to another.

   Kevin has some connections in the Linear Developments – although, unfortunately, those connections tend to presume that he’s a representative of one of the criminal cartels that purchases illegal children for use as transplant donors, disposable playthings, and other horrific purposes, since none of the ones that his representatives select are ever seen again. While that’s because they go to jobs out in the Manifold – and considerably better futures than most they could expect in the Linear Developments – no on in the Realm except his agents knows that. If he’s been identified there, he’s probably quite wanted – even if they’d probably consider both Kevin and his agents underage.

   Arcologies, and even Linear Developments (currently mostly a name for roads, pipelines, and similar structures) are hardly new ideas, although this version (or at least the 2043 – 2057 entries) was loosely inspired by a background element from Pegasus in Flight, by Anne Mccaffery – as well as by Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, the movie Aliens, and a variety of other books and movies.

Seiden The Enchanter

   Quite some time ago, there was a game where you determined your characters abilities almost entirely at random – including what kinds of spells you could use if you happened to be a spellcaster. In fact, if you turned out to be really good at “fire magic” – getting, say, a score of 22 – you simply named 22 spells, then rolled on the appropriate column (Hopelessly Unsuited, Badly Suited, Ill-Chosen, Acceptable, Suitable, Well-Chosen, or Perfect “for the task”) at +22 to see how you did when you wanted to use one of them.

   As it happened, the character I rolled up turned out to be a grand master of enchantment (albeit poor at most other magic), with a score of +42 out of a possible +45 for mortal magi. Seiden wasn’t much good at direct magical battle without his gear – but he was really good at getting ready for it and at enhancing the rest of the group.

   Here, for no particularly good reason save inspiration for other games, is a list of his enchantment spells.

Quasi-Life Imbuement (all provide the necessary awareness of the surroundings)

  • 1) Ellerans Immortal Animation (provides movement and physical skills)
  • 2) Maxwells Obliging Sentience (provides intelligence, speech, and mental skills)
  • 3) Hardins Chameleon Enchantment (provides adaptive abilities and appearance alterations)
  • 4) Phandals Psychic Habitation (allows the item to host a spirit and channel it’s powers)
  • 5) Phandals Spirit Binding (binds a spirit into a physical item and compels it to obey the user)
  • 6) Lowells Lesser Propulsive Spell (provides an item with the power of flight)

Linking

  • 1) Elkens Personalizing Protocol (binds an item to a particular individual)
  • 2) Parells Charm Of Dimensional Linkage (links an item to the energies of another dimension)
  • 3) Orins Rite Of Supernal Dedication (links an item to the energies of a powerful being)
  • 4) Hortens Multiple Singularity (causes two items to act as one item or links them to each other, despite separation)
  • 5) Horaths Mental Linkage (links an item to a particular mind or group of minds)
  • 6) Taboos Sympathetic Activation (allows the item to act as a remote link to a particular mortal creature)

Physical Property Alterations

  • 1) Hagens Material Enhancement (enhances selected existing properties of a material)
  • 2) Elkens Energy Transformation (transforms a material wholly or partially into an energy form)
  • 3) Phandals Unspeakable Envenomment (renders the material, or some aspect thereof, “toxic” to some selection of creatures, properties, or forces)
  • 4) Elkens Charm Of Impermeability (increases or decreases an items ability to transfer some form of energy through itself)
  • 5) Iloneas Variable Metric Distortion (allows an item to change it’s size, whether internal or external).
  • 6) Orwells Physical Influence (allows an item to transfer energies to or from it’s user)

Power Matrixes

  • 1) Soranths Talismanic Conversion (allows the item to convert energies into magical effects)
  • 2) Soranths Focusing Matrix (allows the item to draw on ambient sources of energy)
  • 3) Horganths Power Reservoir (allows an item to act as a battery for a particular type of energy)
  • 4) Mardens Arcane Absorption (allows the item to absorb incoming magical energies)
  • 5) Darwins Reflective Defense (allows the item to reflect particular forms of energy)
  • 6) Mardens Projective Extension (allows the item to transfer energy at range)

Continuous Effects

  • 1) Mardens Functional Amplification (increases the utility of the item, providing bonuses for whatever it’s used for)
  • 2) Phandals Cloaking Mantle (renders the item impervious to selected forms of divination and/or detection; this may simply cover the item itself or anything within it).
  • 3) Talasiens Unfailing Fetish (allows the item to channel energies into enhancing it’s user’s abilities)
  • 4) Kardins Occult Attunement (allows an item to transfer its own effects and properties to it’s user)
  • 5) Murphys Untiring Disruption (allows the item to resist or disrupt particular forces and effects on contact)
  • 6) Orwells Cabalistic Influence (allows the item to attempt to influence its users body or mind)

Master Runes

  • 1) Markats Charm Of Elemental Imbuement (infuses an item with elemental properties)
  • 2) Herkells Puissant Banecharm (infuses an item with forces that are particularly dangers to, and disruptive of, some opposing force, whether to ward off such forces or to damage them)
  • 3) Othins Runic Endowment (bind magic into an item, whether to incorporate other spells or to extend the duration of the spells used to create an item. With enough effort, this allowed the creation of permanent enchantments).
  • 4) Endoras Auric Attunement (causes an item to respond to particular properties of whatever it comes into contact with. Most often used to make things that function only for particular groups, but also good for testing for various properties)
  • 5) Artells Omniscient Enscrollment (allows the item to record knowledge)
  • 6) Artells Potential Incorporation (allows the item to channel the potentials of any items incorporated within it)

Basic Tools:

  • 1) Ortells Expunging Ritual (removes enchantments and lingering magics as well as purifying magical materials)
  • 2) Elkens Arcane Embedment (stores “charges” of other spells within the item)
  • 3) Dampening (selectively suppresses the powers of enchanted objects)
  • 4) Parells Occult Infusion (allows the user to recharge and repair enchanted items)
  • 5) Power Melding (allows two or more sources of power to be combined, including that of an item and it’s user).
  • 6) Myriddins Transporting Depictment (allows the user to create an image of a place, person, or item, and then use that image as a portal to that place, person, or item. Creating places that never before existed is possible, but requires extraordinary power)